Archives for posts with tag: kids


As a parent, you are forced to attend a multitude of school events where you whittle the away the hours watching band recitals, talent shows, and peering at student art all the while secretly wishing you were at home with the remote in hand.

Okay, so Mother of the Year I am not.

When my oldest daughter was in 6th grade, she came home to tell me she’d won a spot in her school’s first ever spelling bee. Spelling Bee? Now here was something I could take an interest in. I’ve always been a halfway decent speller, and I took pride in the fact that my girl was good enough to have qualified for the finals.

We practiced during the weeks leading up to the Bee, and when that Friday night arrived, we drove to the school hoping for the best. Hubby couldn’t make it, because it was hockey season and that night he had to drive the Zamboni for the Richmond Renegades. Hubby missed a lot of these school performances…

There were about 10 kids participating – I think they were the top 2 from the different 6th grade classes. A few kids got out right away. My girl was sailing through the words she was getting, which were all pretty easy. I can remember each time it was her turn sitting there holding my breath hoping that she would not get something like “xylophone” or “chrysanthemum.”

At one point, she got the word “marmalade” and I was a bit worried. She wasn’t a jelly fan. She spelled out M-A-R-M-A-L-A-D-E, which was promptly followed by the tinkle of a bell. I remember thinking, “hmmmm. Last time I looked that was how you spelled marmalade.”

Should I say something? Was I really going to have to be one of THOSE parents? The kind who interupts an entire spelling bee? Luckily one of the other judges caught the error, and I silently sent up a “thank you” to the spelling bee Gods.

The bee went on for a good amount of time, partially because they didn’t know what they were doing. Kids were allowed to start over again if they felt they messed up, which you can’t do in the real Scripps bee. One annoying girl would repeatedly ask all the typical time-buying questions, like “can I have the word’s origin?” and “can you use it in a sentence?”

I was secretly happy when she finally got the bell.

The bee got down to two kids, my girl and a boy who had to wear hearing aids. At this point, while I wanted my girl to win, I would’ve been happy with either kid taking the prize. They went back and forth, back and forth for quite a while. I have to say, as a parent, it was tough to watch. Each word was like a bullet your kid had to dodge.

In the end, my girl won.

We don’t remember the word she won with – isn’t that stupid? But I’m pretty sure the boy messed up on the word “obstetrician” because it took him almost 10 minutes to try and spell it.

She won a medal, which she still has hanging in her room. My girl really floored me that night. I remember calling hubby as soon as we got in the car. I was so sorry he had missed it. His little girl had come out on top, and he wasn’t there to see it.

She went on to compete against the winners from other grades, where she lost on the word “stewardess.” Not only is that a sexist word, but we don’t fly, so she was pretty much clueless as to what a stewardess was.

She made the finals in the 8th grade spelling bee as well. She got out on the word “rhinoceros” which I didn’t know how to spell either. Oh well – sometimes you get the bummer word.

While we were sad that she couldn’t win again, nobody can ever take away that 6th grade win of hers, where she stood on stage and faced a dictionary full of words, and came out on top.

Old News

This morning while watching the Today Show they did a story about boys who insist on wearing shorts to school in the dead of winter.

I turned to my husband and said smuggly, “Hmph! I blogged about that two years ago.”

And if you go on the Today Show’s website, the story is “trending.”

My husband, while supportive of my blog, thinks it’s boring. He’s not alone. I had this comment from some asshole who I hope is an ex-reader a month or so back…

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.26.09 PM

I answered with the typical “If you find it meaningless, then don’t read it (shithead).”

And the things I wrtie about? They’re not meaningless – not to me. They are my thoughts and memories and observations from my little corner of the world. And I was tickled pink to see that a social phenomenom that I had blogged about in the past made it to the main stream.

And is trending.

Kids Knees



When I was a kid there would come a time each fall when my mother would bring home the Sears Christmas Wish Book—600+ pages long and as thick as a phone book. The arrival of this book would trigger a month-long “it’s my turn!” between us four kids, because this book had a killer toy section.

I had all of these, by the way. Sigh…I wish I still did.

Page after page of Barbies, Fisher Price Little People playsets, doll houses, slot car sets, play kitchens, record players, puppets, and tons and tons of games. As a child you practically drooled as you turned each page, eager to see what “it” toy was going assault your “I want that!” senses next.

I think we had this too. If not I know we wanted it badly

I think we had this too. If not I know we wanted it badly

But you didn’t get to dawdle when you had the wishbook, not at first anyway. Once a sibling saw you with the book in your hot little hands, you were asked to hurry up, and sometimes not so politely. Of course, every so often when you took too long, the coveted book was simply ripped out of your hands, leaving you staring at the linoleum counter top as opposed to Malibu Barbie.

One of the creepier pages in the book - I don't think I'd be happy opening the Seance game on Christmas morning.

One of the creepier pages in the book – I don’t think I’d be happy opening the Seance game on Christmas morning.

But eventually there would come a time when the book was all yours. My brother and sisters had had their fill of rod hockey and Jerry Mahoney dummies, and I could take the Wishbook in my hands and do what I did best…pretend.

I would stare at each page that held a toy I wanted and imagine playing with it. I’d just look at the toy and actually pretend that I was opening little Barbie kitchen doors or bringing a plane in for a landing at the Fisher Price airport. I could spend hours in a pre-Christmas fantasy land. What a dork I must have looked like…sitting in a corner talking to a catalog.

bad fashionsAs time marched on and we got older the Wishbook was less alluring. We spent more time glancing at the front of the book which displayed “today’s hip fashions.” However, let it be known that I did not spend much time imagining myself wearing any of the clothes.

With the exception of a bathing suit when I was around 13. I loved that suit. It was my first maillot.

I highly recommend visiting the site Pick a book and flip through the pages—you just might lose yourself remembering all those great toys you got one Christmas.


Last night I had a horrible nightmare. I actually had several bad dreams throughout the night, but one was a real doozy.

In short, I dreamt that my youngest daughter, who in the dream was only 6 or 7, was murdered. She ran away from me at a crowded carnival, and as I was trying to call her back, a man picked her up, threw her over his shoulder, and disappeared into the throngs of people.

My voice wouldn’t work. I was trying to scream and couldn’t. It was incredibly frustrating. People were staring at me, but nobody was helping, and like that, she was gone.

I knew she was dead, but at first couldn’t convince anyone in my family. My husband was strangely optimistic she would come back unharmed. As I sat stuffing envelopes a coworker of mine put two six packs of beer on the table next to me (dreams can be super weird, right?) Then she sat down and told me they had found her body.

The grief I felt was overwhelming. I was crying from a place I didn’t even know existed. My brother in law Mike looked at me and said, “I can’t believe I’m never going to see her again.” I cried, and moaned, and screamed in utter sorrow.

And then I woke up.

At first I wondered if anyone had heard me…it was so real that I was certain I had to be making noise in my sleep. Then I went to my daughter and held her hand, and looked at her, thankful beyond measure that it was just a dream. And I thought of all those mothers who have lived through my nightmare only to have nothing to wake up from.

With Christmas just days away, I thought about the parents of poor Hannah Graham, the UVA student who was abducted and murdered this fall by a loathsome creature who should only live in nightmares, not be a living, breathing thing prowling the streets.

It must be such a sad time for them, this first Christmas without her. There’s no stocking to hang for Hannah, no gifts to buy, nothing to pass to her at the Christmas dinner table. They must be feeling a hole the size of the Grand Canyon without her there. I can’t imagine the pain of losing a child, especially when it’s at the hands of a monster.

When my baby girl wakes up, I’m gonna smother her with kisses. And hugs. And then more kisses. I’m so thankful she’s still here.



This past week my middle school girl was in quite a pickle. An incident occured at the end of the day on Monday which left her convinced that she was going to be the laughing stock of the 7th grade. She was in tears on the way home in the car, and was miserable all night long. I was miserable right along side her.

I can remember times growing up when I did not want to go to school because I knew I’d be ridiculed. Like when I had horribly chapped lips in the 4th grade, or when I accidentaly cut my bangs ridiculously short in 10th grade. Those were days where you just kept your head down and prayed for the minutes to tick by swiftly.

My girl has some problem with bullies, and it wasn’t making facing the next school day any easier. She was sure they were going to pick on her and felt helpless and defenseless. I have to admit, I cried for her a few times that night. I woke up at 1 am and could not get back to sleep imagining the day she had ahead of her.

And that’s when I decided to arm her in order to disarm the bullies.

Who remembers the episode of the Brady Bunch with Buddy Hinton? He was picking on Cindy’s lisp and Peter stood up for her. In the end they wound up fighting it out under the advice and training of Mr. Brady. These days Mr. Brady’s advice would put my little girl in suspension, or worse, expulsion.

I had always told my girl that when a bully says something to put her down, you have to zing them right back with some clever little quip. Problem is, like George Constanza and the jerk store, she can never come up with a good comeback when the time strikes. And I knew I had a mission.

I got up early the next morning and did some research online. Seems there are entire websites devoted to snappy comebacks to bully taunts. And the consensus on many of the advice columns on how to deal with bullies suggests that zinging them back works. I had a renewed hope and enthusiastically began jotting down some of the better ones.

My favorite was “how many times do I have to flush before you go away.”

Why didn’t I know that one in high school? There were quite a few girls I would have loved to use that one on. Another good one was “If I throw a stick will you leave?” or “how many times did your parents drop you?”

But these were all a bit too much for my girl to memorize in the hour we had to get ready for school. She begged to stay home, but I knew she had to go to school – to face the music – get right back on the horse. I also pointed out to her that she might hear absolutely nothing. Sometimes when folks know you’re really bummed about something they lay off. The rest of the morning was one big pep talk for her.

I told her not to cry – not to give anyone that said something nasty to her that satisfaction. I told her not to back down, to look the antagonist in the eye and calmy say something back. If she couldn’t remember any of the zingers, just saying something like “aren’t you just so clever” or “did it take you all night to come up with that one?” would put them off their game.

On the drive to school I could see she was close to tears the whole time, and I knew I had to get her out of that mind set. So I looked at her and said, “You know what you need to do today? You need to have an ‘F-You’ day. You need to walk into that school with your head up and think ‘F-You’ to every person who passes you by. Don’t let anyone mess with you. You’re too good to be messed with, but if they do? You strap on that ‘F-You’ attitude and tell them where to go and how to get there.

I was so proud of her when she got out of the car and headed into the school building – she was being brave, facing the unknown. But I felt like we prepared her the best we could. She also knew that if things got bad, really bad, she could call us mom or dad would pick her up…and schedule a meeting with the principal.

I spent a very tense day at my desk with my cell phone by my side. At noon I took it as a good sign that I hadn’t heard from her. By 1:30 I knew we were over the hump. And when she called me after she got off the bus she said that nobody had said much of anything to her. Some girls sniggered in homeroom, but didn’t say anything to her directly.

What a relief.

But just because she didn’t need to use any of our advice that day, I don’t want her to forget them. There are a few kids in her grade that take pleasure in saying nasty things to her, and I want her to know she doesn’t have to take it lying down. I may have felt the need to arm her in the face of an onslaught, but those tools will work just as well in a smaller skirmish somewhere down the road.

She needs to remember to zing back, and maybe every now and then, to have an “F-You” kind of day.

IMG_6295As I stood in the shower on the morning of April 28th, I was the proud owner of two beautiful kitties – brother and sister that we adopted from our local animal shelter on July 5th, 2010. Less than an hour later I’d be crying over a cardboard box holding the lifeless body of my sweet little Olive.

Olive. Otherwise known as n’Olive. That was her nickname. I’m not sure why we started adding on the hint of an “n” before her name, but we almost always called her n’Olive. Except for my husband – he called her “the grey cat” even though she was clearly brown.

Both cats had been out all night, which happens from time to time, especially when the weather gets warm. Hubby slept on the couch until the wee hours waiting to hear either of them scratching at the door, but he finally gave up and went to bed when no amount of calling brought them in. When I got up at 5 am, I opened the back door to find Dodger waiting to be let in, but no Olive.

I was worried, but not panicked – she liked to make her own entrance. I kept waiting for her tell-tale scratch at the front door, but soon it was time to get into the shower. I thought about her while I was in there – thought about how the last time she didn’t come in after an all night outing, she had come home badly hurt. That wasn’t even a year ago – just the end of last summer.

When the sun came up I walked down the driveway to make sure she wasn’t laying in the road. I’d hate for my daughter to see that. I looked up and down saw nothing crumpled on the pavement, or in the grassy ditch along the side of the road. I even looked at the road behind our house, which is tough because I have to wade through a thicket of trees with about 8 inches of leaves on the ground.

Once my youngest woke up and heard Olive was MIA we decided to go out and take another look. As I was walking up the road, I heard my daughter cry out for me. She’d found Olive.

My sweet girl was laying in a deep ditch beside the storm pipe that runs under the street from our house. She wasn’t moving. I hurried down beside her, but there was nothing to be done. She was dead.

The next hour was a bad one. My youngest dropped to her knees in the road and began sobbing. I got her up and took her back to the house where I woke up Hubby, who came out and got her out of the ditch. We placed her in a box, and I carried her to the garage. There was no way I was sending my daughter to school that day, and then I thought of what to tell my oldest daughter.

She was still at college, getting ready for finals week. Hubby suggested we keep this bad news from her so she could concentrate on finishing out her year. At first I was horrified – she had to know. Olive was her cat. They were like peas and carrots – always sleeping together. Olive would only sleep on her lap, only let her scritch behind her ears for hours on end.

But he was right. So we kept it from her for almost two weeks.

I had to work that day – Mondays are busy for me. I took my youngest into town with me where we moped our way through the day. I lost it when I told my co-workers, but had to keep my cool the remainder of the day. Can’t be answering the phone with a weepy, hitching voice.

When we got home, we found a nice spot, dug a deep hole and said goodbye to our beautiful girl. We laid her on the piece of carpet she slept on, and wrapped her in one of my oldest daughter’s baby blankets. But first we petted her. I scratched her little head, and rubbed her pretty belly and cried, and cried, and cried. We each took turns shoveling dirt on her, and then cried some more.

The next day we had some heavy rains in the area, and on the way home, hubby and my youngest stopped to watch the Rivanna River flow rapidly by. And there, hubby spotted a flat rock in the shape of a heart. It’s the centerpiece of her grave now, surrounded by pavers, flowers, and a light. I plan on making that area a garden over the course of time. Tiger lilies and pussy willows. And black eyed susans.

By the time my oldest came home from college ten days later, we had formed a bit of a scab on our hearts. But leading her to the grave when she asked where her kitty was ripped that scab off like it was attached to the band-aid. And once again we cried, and cried, and cried.

Olive was a weird kitty. Aloof and standoffish, more times than not she would arch away from you when you went to pet her. She didn’t like to be held, and was totally disinterested in her brother, who lived to torment her in his playful kitty way. But to my oldest she was something completely different. Olive would surrender totally to her – they shared a bond that no one else in the family could even come close to having with her.

Yet after her accident last year, she had begun to mellow towards the rest of us. I think she realized that we took care of her…that we loved her, and she began to reciprocate. She’d give us more tail hugs and would endure more scratches. She’d lay on the carpet and roll her belly up to be rubbed. She slept with me from time to time.

And now she’s gone. Just when she was getting good. There are things I’ll miss about that stubby little kitty.

I’ll miss her dainty little scratch at the front door. Dodger? He moves the sliding screen with his paws making a loud clanking sound. But n’Olive? She’d just give a few little scratches and wait patiently to be let in.

I’ll miss how she used to sleep on top of the hot water heater – so much so that I got a carpet remnant and cut it to fit.

I’ll miss her little legs that looked like bowling pins, and her long rabbit feet. I’ll miss how those legs used to walk on the back of mine when she was climbing into bed with me – and how much it hurt.

I’ll miss the little spot of white on her lips – it was wider when she was a kitten, but as she grew older it shrunk into a little area where it looked like she had a dab of cream on her lips.

I’ll miss how when we would come up the driveway, she’d always run to the back door by trotting along the wooden beams that line the driveway, stopping to sharpen her claws at the end.

I’ll miss how she used to sleep in the little space right next to the TV set, and how she’d cuddle up in the in-box by the computer.

I’ll miss her high pitched little meow when I would open up a can of wet food.

Ah my sweet little n’Olive. We miss you.








vintage-teacherMy oldest daughter is in the home stretch of her freshman year. She will be home in her own room for the entire summer in 7 days – 7 short days. But first she needs to survive finals.

I found spring finals to be harder than the ones right before Christmas. Perhaps it’s because it’s not only the end of the semester, but the end of the entire school year. In addition to taking your tests and handing in final papers, you leave your room and your friends and come back to an entirely new scenario the following fall.

When I was a freshman my spring semester was a toughie. I had two classes that took up most of my time – American Art History and a basic dunce math class. By the time finals came around I was ready to throw both books into on-coming traffic on I-95.

The art history class was tough because the teacher spoke so fast. You wrote in a frenzied panic as she flipped through slide after slide. By the time the 90 minutes was over you were exhausted – and your writing hand felt like a club. Then you had to go home and make sense of the 23 pages of cat scratch you took down. Add to that the memorizing of names, dates and periods of at least 100 paintings, sculptures and architectural masterpieces.

I got a 99 on that final. The teacher actually wrote me a postcard saying she took the point off just because she hates giving 100s.

But Math? That was a totally different story. It was an idiotic freshman math class that everyone who didn’t place out had to take. And it wasn’t so much that the math was hard, it was the way they had the class set up that really messed with your brain.

The course was set up like a game of Russian roulette. There were 3 tests and a final. If you failed any one test, you failed the course. Even if you got 100s on every single test but you failed the final, you failed the course. And failure wasn’t your typical below 60 score. Anything below a 75 was considered an F. Most of the tests were 20 questions, so if my remedial math skills are correct, if you missed more than 5, you failed.

I saw kids drop like flies over the course of the semester, having been handed their “F” on one exam or another – I somehow managed to pass them all. The math final was the very last test I had to take that semester. As I solved each problem, I wrote my answers down on a sheet of scratch paper. After all the exams were handed in the professor revealed the answers on the overhead projector. This way you could know your fate without having to spend a few agonizing weeks waiting to get your results via the US postal.

As I worked my way down the sheet, I was putting an “X” next to my answers at an alarming frequency. By the time I’d gotten through checking half my test answers I’d already reached the dreaded five wrong. My stomach churned as I imagined my father’s wrath at me failing a course – a course that he’d shelled out good money for – and that I’d have to repeat.

Could I possibly have gotten the last 10 answers on my test right? There was no way…no way…wait, wait…WAIT!  As I checked my answer to question 20 and realized it, and the 9 before it, were all correct, I knew I’d passed the exam – and by the skin of my teeth. I whooped a gleeful cheer of victory, ran out of the building and drop-kicked my math book across the lawn. I stomped it and ripped pages out and made confetti and threw little tiny bits of x + y = (who gives) (a fuck) in the air over my head.

I was so incredibly relieved I almost cried. I walked back to my soon-to-be empty dorm room with the sun on my back and a smile on my face. My dad came to pick me up later that day and the ride home to Jersey was one sweet trip.

For ahead of me was a three month chill-pill. Ah, childhood summers…

Picture 2Each Christmas for the past forever years, I would set up and display all sorts of thing besides our Christmas tree. There were Santa statues, snowmen on sleds, wire reindeer, and my Christmas village.

Yep, I collect those little ceramic houses and craft a wintry village each year. It’s a task that is super time-consuming. First I have to drag in a long, narrow table from the garage and drape it in a table cloth. Next I get to dig around the hard to get at crawl space and free up all the boxes each house is kept in. Then I have to trudge up and down the stairs and pile the boxes on the table. I then go back up stairs to find books to use as hills in my village.

Then you lay down the fake snow, and begin the process of opening up each and every box that has a ceramic house encased in it. This is a chore in itself as each house is wrapped in a styrofoam mold which needs to be pried open, and then put back in the box again, or I’ll forget which form goes with which house. Next it’s time to plug every house in to test if their lights still work. If not, it’s off to the store to buy replacement bulbs.

I then need to find not one, but two power strips in order to plug these suckers all in. I arrange all the little houses and shops in a pleasing fashion, then climb under the table and hope to God they all light up again, despite the fact that I just checked them. Then you set up all the do-dads; trees, villagers, benches, mailboxes.

Then, my kids play in it. Or at least my youngest one does. I doubt my 18 year old could tear herself away from Netflix and Habbo to bother with the village, but my youngest will sit there for an hour moving people around the town and creating little stories. Just like her dear old mom used to do.

This year? I kind of never got around to putting anything out. Once the tree was up, I sorta stopped decorating. And why? Because it’s a lot of work for a few week’s enjoyment. With Thanksgiving coming so late, I lost at least a week of decorating time.

Another reason I’m holding off on the decorations is to be honest with you, they sort of junk up the house a bit. I don’t have a lot of room in my house, and even less room for chachkies and whatnot. Whenever I put out all my Christmas stuff the house seems cluttered rather than festive.

I have felt like a total Grinch about this too. I’ve been debating whether or not to bust into the crawl space and just set everything up, regardless of the late date. But you know what? My kids haven’t mentioned a thing. They haven’t said, “hey mommy, where’s the Christmas village?” or “why isn’t the countdown to Christmas Santa out?”

So I’m thinking I might stick with the tree and that’s it. Unless one of them notices and eventually asks. I think then I’ll heave a sigh, and begin my first trek up the stairs.


Girl-with-Fingers-CrossedWhen I was little – I’m talking 6 or 7 – I told a pretty big lie. One, that when I think back on it as an adult, could have had some pretty serious consequences. Lucky for me, like not wearing seat belts, wearing no bike helmets, and taking candy from strangers, I managed to survive to the ripe old age of 48 despite this big lie.

It was a summer afternoon, and I was outside trying to find something to do. I was left in the care of my older brother and sister, as my mother had gone down the street to have coffee with Aunt Dorothy, who wasn’t really my Aunt – just my mom’s good friend.

Ah, Aunt Dorothy. She’s almost worthy of a blog post of her very own. She was the type of friend that was both a blessing and bummer. Never having had any children of her own, she was always quick to criticize my mother about how she was raising us. She reprimanded often, and had a “children should be seen and not heard” type of attitude.

But, she always made me rye toast with Breakstone’s butter, which I loved, and she always let us watch “The Wizard of Oz” at her house because she had a color TV when we only had black and white. And let’s face it, seeing Oz in black and white is like trying to eat with no taste buds.

When mom was down at Aunt Dorothy’s it was a strict rule that we were only supposed to call in case of an emergency. Too many times had we disturbed their coffee klatch with nonsense like “Judy ate the last Yodel” or “Stefan is hogging the TV watching the Yankees.”

That afternoon my brother probably was watching the Yankees, because I know I was bored and roaming around outside. I was in front of my neighbor’s house when I spotted a cat on the sidewalk. I’d never seen it before and wanted badly to play with it. However, my mom had told me not to mess with stray kitties because we didn’t know if they were mean or nice or if they had their shots.

But it was such a cute thing, so I wandered over, calling to it in kitty talk. I petted it for a while and then got the idea to pick it up and carry it to my yard. This was a mistake.

Upon picking it up it scrambled madly to get away. In the process of making it’s escape, it managed to use my forehead as a springboard. I felt a horrible pain on my head, reached up to touch it and found that I was bleeding.

I remember I took the front of my shirt, and lifted it up to my forehead to try and wipe off the blood. When I pulled my shirt back down the amount of blood seeped into the front of it was way more than I had ever dreamed would be there.

AAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH! I ran down the street and into the house to show Wendy and Stefan. I must have been a sight with a manhole-sized blood stain on my halter top and probably as much on my head and face. Stefan grabbed the phone and dialed Aunt Dorothy’s number where he got immense satisfaction at saying,  “YES! IT’S AN EMERGENCY!!!”

When mom came rushing home she asked me what happened. Remembering that I was not supposed to pick up strange animals, I told my mom that I had been sitting on my neighbor’s wall, saw a spider and fell off, hitting my head. This is the story that was told at the emergency room, as well. I stuck to it like glue.

I’m sure my wounds puzzled the doctor, and may have cast doubt on my story, but I don’t ever remember anyone questioning me further. I got 7 stitches and was sent home.

Me with swollen eyes staring longingly at the sea...

Me with swollen eyes staring longingly at the sea…

A few days later we all went to Jones Beach, but I couldn’t go in the water because I couldn’t get my wound wet. Plus, my eyes had puffed up something terrible as a result of the stitches. My brothers and sisters made fun of me – and it was no fun being at the beach when you couldn’t go in the water.

A few weeks later I got my stitches out and the whole incident was over.

Thinking back, I realize how bad of a lie this was. How big of a lie. Can you imagine if that cat had Rabies? Or had some crap under it’s claws that could’ve given me an infection? The doctors didn’t know to give me anything special as a precaution, because they didn’t know a cat was even involved in this injury.

It’s like I said earlier, it’s a wonder I managed to stay alive with all the dopey things I’ve done over the past 48 years. Thank goodness I am one, strong, hearty Slovak.

TinyWitch-GraphicsFairy1My youngest, who is 11, is still very much into Halloween. Trick or treating is serious business for her, and as we went door to door in our neighborhood last night, I realized something…Halloween is changing, and not for the better.

First of all, half the houses didn’t participate. This is especially true of my immediate neighborhood – out of the 8 or 9 houses that make up “my block” only two were brightly lit or decorated inviting kids to come on up and ring the bell, mine, and the new family across the street. Rule of thumb usually is, if the porch light is off, don’t bother, so my house got very little traffic.

While we were walking around the block, the kids would get a good 3 or 4 houses in a row with folks handing out candy, but then we’d have to walk past at least 4 or 5 homes that were completely dark. It was super creepy too, because it was pitch black last night.

There were also very few trick or treaters at first. We walked around for a good 25 minutes before we came across another family, and they weren’t even on foot, they were driving around in their car canvasing areas with a bunch of good houses in a group.

That’s another Halloween oddity here. Because so many folks live in rural areas, they drive into the developments to do their trick or treating. So along with the throngs of kids on foot, there are almost as many in cars – it makes for a busy and potentially dangerous night.

Every now and then, you hit a little area where a group of houses really embrace the spirit of Halloween. Their homes are well lit and decorated, and there are large groups of families and kids milling about, excited to have found a good pocket of trick or treating territory. It’s almost like a block party atmosphere – and I am super jealous of those folks. I’d love for my neighborhood to be more like that.

And then there are the die-hard Halloween fanatics – the ones who go way overboard. We visited two of these homes last night.

One, has his yard and home decked out with what has to be $4,000 worth of lights, tombstones, and animatronic ghouls. You can park in front of their house and listen to music that accompanies the lights. But they gave away dollar store lollipops for treats – I guess they spent all their money on Jason and Freddy Kruger statues. Oh, and they are twice as bad at Christmas…

The other house was amazing. It had twice the stuff as the first house, but they also made theirs interactive. You could walk through a lighted path lined with tombstones, fog machines, spiders and killer clown robots. They had their porch turned into a mad scientists lab. They had no less than 25 carved pumpkins. A woman was handing out good candy by the hand fulls. And they had a serious traffic jam in front of their house. It was great.

As I turned out my Halloween lights for the last time, and watched my girls digging through the bowl of candy in search of their favorite treat, I thought of all the differences there are between the Halloween I grew up with and the ones my kids have experienced. It’s too fast here. You can’t go out until dark, which isn’t until at least 6:30, and it’s all over by 8:30…just two small hours where you are trying to cram in as much fun as possible. Our night was over in the blink of an eye.

And what’s the deal with trunk or treating? I’m not sure how I feel about those things. If they are meant to be a fun event in addition to traditional trick or treating on October 31st, then I think they are a splendid idea. But if they are meant to replace going out on Halloween night, I think it’s really sad. Everything is too safe…to PC these days.

I wonder, once my youngest grows too old for Halloween, what kind of participant I’ll be. Oh, I know my light will always be on for the neighborhood kids – I could never become that much of a crank. On the one hand, I look forward to sitting at home with a glass of wine waiting for the doorbell to ring. But I wonder if I will miss being out there, walking through the inky black streets of my neighborhood, hearing the sounds of laughter around the next corner.

I guess I’ll find out in another couple of years – that is, if Halloween hasn’t gone to hell in a hand basket by then.


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