What is there to like about Halloween?

Not much for a mom, in my opinion.

No, this isn’t some rant about wallowing in pagan traditions, going to hell in a handbasket, blah blah blah. Please. As Sister Mary Martha says, “give the child your broom and a pointy hat and let her have fun gathering and eating candy. Tomorrow she’ll be at Mass. For a child, that is enough.” And if Sister Mary Martha thinks it’s ok to dress up in even scary costumes and extort candy from the neighbors then it must be ok.

But for weeks, this is what Halloween gives me:

#1 The Costume Headache

Pete was easy. No Yoda costume to be found in Target, so I fell back on the reliable dragon costumes I made for the boys when they were little. My wise mother’s heart knows he will likely refuse to wear it and likely refuse to even go trick-or-treating, so I’m happy I didn’t waste money on Yoda.

Jenny was easy. After a bit of waffling, she decided on a being a witch. They had really cute pumpkin witch costumes at Target, so DONE!

Fritz was easy. He wanted to be Obi Wan. He found an Anakin outfit and understands that one Jedi outfit is as good as another, so DONE!

The other two….grrrrr…

Billy changed his mind by the hour at home. At the store, he found a Power Ranger costume and picked it. Then, at home, decided he wanted to be Anakin and dress like Fritz. Oh, but he didn’t want me to return his Power Ranger costume, he wanted ANOTHER costume. The answer is, of course, no, but I grow weary reminding him of this. He is most persistant, and I am grateful that I only have about 12 to 16 years left in enforcing rules over him. The Grand Canyon is proof that even the most solid ground can be eroded over time. I should be able to hold on for another decade and a half…but barely.

And Katie….Katie wanted to be Princess Lei, but Target didn’t happen to have Princess Lei costumes. I told her it was ok, that we could easily MAKE a Princess Lei costume, but she gave me that look of shock and horror as though I were depriving her by not buying her a costume from a store. And she didn’t want to go home empty handed. She decided to be a pumpkin witch, too. She and Jenny look similar, but not identical. They are really cute, but…

…the costume purchases came at the expense of listening to mom (me) rant about “…when I was a kid, we didn’t BUY costumes, we MADE them…”

And I’ve resolved that next year, they start getting a bit more creative and making their own. Ghosts, gypsys, hobos…I might be willing to spring for face paint and let them be clowns. But NO MORE store-bought costumes, and having mom slave for weeks for a home-made alternative isn’t acceptable either.

I’m sure I’ll just have a bigger headache next year.

#2 The Candy Dilemma

First of all, how much candy to buy? There are hundreds of children living in my neighborhood. I need to buy enough for them, but not risk having an excessive amount leftover. Last year, I raided the kids baskets after they returned to supplement my supply. And then there are the teenagers, with no costumes, who come looking for a handout.

Who ever thought that giving out candy to kids in huge quantities was a good idea? Well, kids, for one…but anyone else? I’m not a candy-Nazi. I’m generous at Easter and Christmas and I don’t mind some for Halloween. But candy is not a normal component of our daily (or even weekly) diet (with the exception of chocolate chip rewards for using the potty if you are under the age of 3 1/2). Five kids easily bring home 5 pounds of chocolate. That’s a year’s worth of candy for everyone here. And if the stuff wasn’t all wrapped in orange and black, I’d seriously consider hiding half of it until Christmas time.

Usually, my husband takes about a third to his office. Another third goes straight into the garbage (sour flavoring is not popular here, and neither is cinnamon or gummy-anything). And then I let the kids binge on the rest, throw up for a day, and we’re over it. (I’m just kidding.)

And for the teenagers, this year, at the suggestion of a neighbor, I bought plain #2 pencils. Uncostumed teens, unless accompanying a younger sibling, will get one of those. Yeah, I’m a mean lady.

And finally…

#3 Nightmares

Ever since the decorations began to go up, sleep troubles began. One recent morning, two kids woke up extra early crying from bad dreams. Katie is sobbing herself to sleep every night because she’s scared…and she’s getting Jenny all riled up too. And the conversations we’ve been having about vampires and werewolves and ghosts…I’m getting tired of discussing fiction versus reality time and time again.

Halloween is a lot of fun for kids between the ages of about ten and twelve…and for older kids with the mentality of a ten to twelve year old, including some adults (no names mentioned here…but…let’s just say that some members of this household are really in touch with their inner child, and it’s not me). I used to love haunted houses and haunted hayrides. I’m sure when my kids are older, I may find them amusing once again. Having your pants scared off every once in a while is fun, I know…if you’re an adult.

But when you’re a kid…it just makes for a nightmare for your mom.

Field Trips

Last week: fire station (always a big hit with kids).

Yesterday: Cox Farm.

Does seeing baby pigs really count as educational?

It was freezing, but Jenny stripped off two layers. She was miserable, but she was miserable before taking off her sweater and long sleeved shirt anyway.

We’ll count this as “socialization” I guess.

Or perhaps phys-ed?…they did have to run up hills or climb a staircase for the slides.

Definitely cooper-ative play. Katie and her friend Maria were each too scared to go down the big spiral slide together, so their older brothers gallantly stepped forward to ride with them. Very sweet.

Biology class? (learning about the jaws of large sea creatures)?

Hay rides are a good lesson in how people used to travel before cars. Also, in how hay protects you from the wind and keeps you much warmer than you might have thought possible.

We were supposed to be meeting with a Catholic homeschool group. We got there and found one other mom. It was freezing and standing around was making everyone cranky, so my friend and I took off for the hayride.

Later, as we sat in the warm car and ate lunch, we saw the other mother again. She apologized that we hadn’t caught up with the group. It turns out we “missed” praying the rosary and the Angelus…in the freezing cold…with half a gazillion little children who were hungry for lunch and/or staring longingly at the slides. Well, actually, those saintly children were probably not doing that, but mine would have been.

I’m such a bad Catholic mom that I was elated that we missed the rosary. The Angelus would have been fine, but the rosary? in the wind and cold? No matter how good of a mom you may think you are…no matter how well you may feel you are raising your children in the faith…there will always be other families with mild-speaking moms and rosary-praying children to show you just how much more you could be doing.

Post-traumatic stress

The summer of 1991, I was 20 and halfway through college where I earned a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering and also completed the requirements for a minor in German. The head of the German Department at my school got me a job at an engineering firm in Germany. It was supposed to be a joint German/engineering internship, but the Head of the Engineering Department would not approve it. The reason: me and my big mouth.

I was a student in this professor’s Thermodynamics class. Thermodynamics has absolutely nothing to do with civil engineering, but it was a required course for all engineering students. This professor was consistently making me late for…a German class, and I, in front of the entire class, obnoxiously complained about it! Not too bright. It also didn’t help that I struggled in this class, and I think earned a D+. In my defense, I had no intention of being a rocket scientist, and I aced all but one of my civil engineering classes, so I’m really not too stupid. I just couldn’t calculate how much torque an engine operating at a certain speed with a certain power and at a certain temperature might produce. I also didn’t really care.

Anyway, my bad attitude and apparent lack of brain power prevented me from an engineering internship. So, I worked in the sales department. Interestingly enough, I had a career in sales and engineering after college.

In Germany, I lived on the first floor of a home. The owners lived upstairs and they rented the first level – two bedrooms, a bath and kitchen – to international employees of the firm. My roommate was a guy from Brazil. We got along great, although his German was so much better than mine that I don’t know how we managed to communicate.

At first, everything about my little home was fine. But then, a few weeks in, I was taking a shower and out of the drain popped two big, furry spiders. I really don’t like spiders, especially not the furry kind with huge bodies, long legs and snapping fangs – I swear they were chomping and looking for blood. Okay, I can’t be certain about the chomping fangs; I am near-sighted and generally don’t take a shower with my glasses on. Spiders, even huge, black, killer spiders, appear as moving, black dots. My near-sightedness makes me feel extra-vulnerable, since I can’t tell how aggressive that spider really is. Is he trying to run from me, or is he gauging the best angle of attack? I can’t tell, so I assume the worst.

Fortunately, Mr. Brazil was not scared of spiders and happily dispatched them every time they appeared – which was often. I’m just happy that this blubbering and babbling American girl was able to provide him with some amusement.

Now why am I remembering these horrid creatures? This morning, as I was about to step into my shower, I saw a darting black dot. Since neither Mr. Brazil nor my personal knight in shining armor was available, the defense of the home was all on me. I fetched my glasses so I could do battle properly, and washed the thing down the drain with only a few stifled squeals of fright (the kids were sleeping still, I couldn’t be too loud). And then I did what any sensible person would do – I closed the drain and showered in ever-deepening water. Those things can cling and crawl even in flooded drains, you know!

Day 31, Week 7

Wow. We’ve made it to Week 7.

Today was Monday, even though it was Friday. Good thing, too, because we’re going on a field trip on the real Monday. So, Tuesday will be Tuesday, and my three days of grace I built into the start of the school year will be all gone. That’s okay, though. I was getting myself confused as to what day of the week it really was, and that’s not usually a good thing.

I’m amazed that with seven weeks in a row of taking my son to the doctor (a 3 to 4 hour door-to-door journey), we didn’t actually get behind. It’s probably good that it coincided with the beginning of the school year when things are moving slowly along. I’m sure Fritz would have spent many of the last Saturdays making up school work if he attended a traditional school. Now, we’re down to only once a month, but with surgery looming in the not-too-distant future I may need a few more bonus days.

Since we’re out of the classroom on Monday, Tuesday will be Day 32. I have a 32 week curriculum, which means by the close of business Tuesday we will be 20% done with the school year. And that is cause for celebration.

I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining about schooling my kids. I’m not. I love it. I also like running, and I ran a ten mile race. I trained for months (since I’m not a big runner). I worked hard. I got to the point a few times where I really didn’t want to go for a run. But I did. And I accomplished my goal. And I’m very happy with my success. And I’m still running. That’s homeschooling. There are days I don’t really want to do it, but I’ve got a goal and I’m plugging along. See you past the finish line!

Stocking photos

Here are some photos of the stocking I made for my husband.

Since C.M.W. asked, if I had all of the materials and equipment assembled, if I had no obligations or interruptions (if I lived on Fantasy Island!!!), I could knock out one of these in about an hour. Keep in mind that I am using an existing pocket and labels and just cutting them off the BDU top and stitching them onto the stocking.

When I mass produced them for deployed service members, I had two 9 year old girls (they were ten the following year) who did much of the cutting and stitching. Those stockings did not have fluffy trim or fancy pockets. Also, I don’t usually use pins for something this simple, so that saves a ton of time.

If (when) I make them for my husband’s office, I won’t do one at a time. First, I’ll cut the material, then I’ll stitch pockets and/or velcro, then I will do the fluff, and lastly stitch the outside edge. This will cut down the per each time, because it just goes faster when you do the same thing over and over. Also, the stockings I make won’t have pockets on both sides. I think it’s possible that each stocking will take me much closer to 40 minutes to do (20 minutes for the stocking and trim and 20 minutes for the velcro/pockets).

And Bill promised to help! (In his oh-so-copious free time…)

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Yesterday, this beautiful face said she thought her sister was prettier because her sister had curly hair.

Jenny’s hair is really pretty, and when the humidity is right, will curl into ringlets like Goldilocks. If I braid it, the tips make a perfect swirl. I have resisted even a trim for her, just because I’m afraid that curl will go away.

Katie’s hair is super thick and poker straight. It also grows very slowly, which we learned after her little friend cut it and we waited for seemingly forever for it to grow out again. But her hair isn’t unattractive at all, and when combined with this face, she has no worries in the beauty department.

I told her she was gorgeous. Period.

It just bothers me that such a young girl is already acutely aware of her looks and is ready to compare herself with others. She has already voiced concerns over being fat (she, like all my kids, is in the 25 percentile for weight and the 50 percentile for height), but I know just where she got that idea from – an unthinking neighbor told her a over a year ago that she had a big belly, because she was doing the typical kid thing and standing with an arched back and her abdomen pushed out. She might have had poor posture (she was four years old), but she has not an ounce of excess fat on her.

Self-esteem, body image…these are issues I thought I could avoid for a few more years. Apparently not.

Two quick updates

First of all, about the stockings:

I’m not sure about the velcro part, because I need a special color, special sizes. We found one place on line that only sold them in bulk – like 80 yards for $80. I’m going to call this one place today to see if they really are selling that material for $1.85 a yard, since Angoraknitter found a place at $8 per yard, and that is just a huge difference. Just the material and the fluff and the 550 cord (of which I’ll be happy to use some of the gazillion yards we happen to own for some reason known only to Army guys) is really only about $1 or $2 per stocking.

I went on line and looked up handmade Christmas stockings. All were nice. Some were super nice. The price range for handmade stockings was $30 to $90. Machine-made novelty stockings were only $10 to $20 each. I need to keep reminding myself that these are handmade (by machine), not (bulk) machine-made.

I don’t mind doing them for cheap to contribute to the overall Christmas spirit, but my husband knows that the main condition of a big discount would be that the price be kept a secret. My husband’s office is a high-traffic, high-visibility one. And everyone passing through is top brass. I WILL make extra stockings, because there WILL be requests for purchase. I don’t need his boss saying she got them for $20 when someone would happily fork over $35.

Hopefully this afternoon, I will dig out my husband’s stocking and take a picture for you all to see. He has a few BDU tops that are waiting for the knife. I’m going to make them into stockings as well and sell them too. Perhaps my kids and I will do a unit study on running a business. So if you Army wives like this idea, but don’t want to make one yourself, check here in November for pricing. I’m just not sure what postage to Germany is, Renee.

And the fire update. My house still smells like we’re pack-a-dayers, but it is getting better. The firemen gave me the number to the Fire Prevention office, which was voice mail. I left my name and number. Maintenance came over with a spray can of smoke and tested every single detector and they all went off. Of course. They looked at me like I was an idiot. I insisted that every single room had smoke in it, and they said they didn’t know what to tell me. My neighbor’s alarms go off all the time, so maybe I’m imagining things. Perhaps my husband and children and I are all under some big delusional spell. Right. I’m not sure what I’m going to do. Perhaps buy some cheap alarms and install them myself. I don’t feel safe, but I do sympathize with the maintenance crew too. What can they do? The alarms claim to be working. I’m not interested in setting another fire in my house to prove my point.