My Love-Hate Relationship with Halloween

While there are plenty of things to love about Halloween (costumes, candy, parties, oh my!), there are some things that just bug me about Halloween. I wrote about it for my friend Kim. I want to thank Kim for asking me to participate in her Halloween series, Listing Toward Halloween. It’s been fun reading everyone’s take on this holiday.

I also want to thank my mom for that fabulous costume pictured with the post. I tried to get one of the girls to wear it, but their PC-meter must be way more sensitive than mine ever was.

A few ironies to note for Halloween 2013:
1. Trick-or-treat is actually on Halloween this year — tonight, for those keeping track!

2. We did NOT carve pumpkins.

We had every intention of carving pumpkins; as a matter of fact, we were going to do it this past Sunday.

My children have had their pumpkins since October 19. Kate even had a green one because she was going to carve an Angry Birds pig. I kid you not.

The pumpkins were victimized this week by the local critters that live around our house. From the size and positioning of the holes, I’m guessing chipmunk.

3. I did do some heavy construction on the girls’ costumes this year. Come back to see pictures tomorrow.

Here are my favorites from the Listing Toward Halloween series (aside from my own, of course):

Halloween apologies (I could’ve written the costumes one).

Trick-or-treat defeat: The life and times of a Halloween failure.

Halloween costumes for men with glasses.

Halloween Dance: A Poem.

Read through them all. Someone probably feels the same way you do about Halloween!

And have a happy and safe evening of trick-or-treating.

What do you like the most about Halloween?

A Sister’s Grief

Flora has a deep and abiding sadness over the loss of her brother Gabriel.

And I’ve no idea how to handle it sometimes.

Last night, we sang happy birthday to my nephew L. His birthday was actually last week, but I am a Bad Aunt, and completely forgot to call. Or I’m a Good Mom because I forgot to call because Kate was suddenly ill with a fever.

Either way, yesterday I took advantage of Niece and Nephew being next door, brought them to Flora’s soccer game with us, and then we went out for dessert. Yes, I was that woman in the Eat ‘n’ Park with five children, including three *very giggly* girls.

Once we got back in the car, I asked all the kids to sing happy birthday to Nephew. Michael wanted to celebrate his birthday with a song, too, but because his birthday isn’t until December, I told him he’d have to wait.

Then I listed the order of birthdays: Kate, Niece, Nephew, Flora, Michael, then Kate again. I added Jesus’s birthday (Christmas) for good measure.

Flora asked when Gabriel’s birthday was. I told her he was delivered on June 8. (I don’t call it a birthday.)

She proceeded to get very upset that we never celebrate his birthday.

Which is true. We mark the anniversary of his death, usually by going to the cemetery and placing flowers on his grave.

“Yeah, but we don’t celebrate him,” she pointed out, starting to cry. “That’s not fair.”

She was oddly insistent on the “celebrate” part.

I was utterly non-plussed.

It’s not that I don’t think my pregnancy with Gabriel isn’t something to have been celebrated. Dan and I did celebrate it. To say it ended badly is a gross understatement.

And while I acknowledge Flora’s feelings of injustice, I did point out that we don’t celebrate the birthdays of deceased people, people who aren’t with us.

“But he is with us!” she insisted. And I do somewhat agree with that point.

I feel bad that I can’t help Flora with her grief. I don’t think she’s silly to miss a brother she never knew, a “big brother” who predeceased her conception. I miss him every single day, although my grief is not as visible as it used to be.

However, I also don’t think I’m going to buy a birthday cake on June 8, fair or not.

What do you do with others’ big emotions?

Weekend Snippets

Michael touched the stove on Friday. About two seconds after I told him not to because it was hot.

He was okay, although he did have first degree burns on the palm of his hand, especially on the pad of his thumb.

He cried quite a lot; I cried a little. I ran his hand under cold water and watched for blisters. That night he was complaining it hurt, and I gave him some Tylenol.

Aside from the obvious reason, I know he is my son. And this is how:

Growing up, my dad told us children a lot of stories, and gave us a lot of lectures. He tried as hard as he could to guide our decision making by leading by example, and he told us all the examples. Often.

At some point, probably when I was in high school or heading to college, I finally said to him, “Dad, you try to tell me not to touch the stove because it’s hot, and you know because you touched the stove. But if you tell me the stove is hot, I’m going to want to touch it myself to check.”

Now, I was speaking metaphorically. Apparently, I’m going to have to watch that with M.


“Blurred Lines” came on the radio when I was in the car with the kids. Now, I’m not crazy about that song; the lyrics rub me wrong, too creepy. But the kids don’t know from creepiness, so I left it on. At one point, I did say, “What do you think this song’s about?”

Kate replied, “It’s a guy singing to a girl he likes.”

Okay then.

Flora said, “Wouldn’t it be weird if he were singing to a dog?”

I gave her a quick glance. “That would be weird,” I agreed.

“But it would fit,” she said. “If he were singing, holding a dog biscuit up for a dog.” Then she sang, “I know you want it/ I know you want it/ You’re a good girl.”

I almost peed my pants laughing.


Kate tested me this weekend. She tested me HARD.

And she lost.

Even as I knew I was doing the right thing by taking something away from her — a big thing, a thing she had been looking forward to — I still felt bad. Felt *sad* about it actually, because I wanted her to do this thing. She would have had a good time.

Now we’ll just have to wait and see if she learned anything.

I know what I learned. Sometimes being a good parent *sucks*.


What do you do when you know you’re doing the right thing, but it still sucks?

Random Thoughts: The Don’t Drink and Rape Edition

If you care to know what inspired this post, you can mosey on over to Slate and look for the headline: “The Best Rape Prevention: Tell College Women to Stop Getting So Wasted”.

I can’t link to the article because of Slate’s horrible, terrible, no good redesign. On the upside, I am being more productive at work AND posting more here.

My thought on the article is this: It’s clickbait, pure and simple. The headline is enraging, meant to drive attention. Despite objections to the contrary, to me the way the article is written comes across as victim blaming. There’s a lot of phrases in the passive voice like, “ends up being raped”, and a small riff about how the author had a college career that was full of risks but not binge drinking (i.e. “You don’t know have to binge drink to have fun!” — a sentiment I fully agree with).

1. Yep, binge drinking is bad, and binge drinking is a huge problem on college campuses. It needs to be addressed.

2. Both sexes need to be apprised, and sternly, about the risks of binge drinking. Not just “those college lasses need to be told not to drink so darn much!” Binge drinking leads to accidents, brain damage, and death, too.

3. Drunk sex — like, really drunk sex — sucks. No one should be having sex when they are really drunk. It’s dumb, it’s dangerous, and it’s no good.

4. Rape is also a problem. Not just on college campuses. Yes, a rapist (usually a man) will use alcohol to incapacitate his chosen victim (usually a woman). But sober and not-blackout-drunk women get raped, too, by rapists. The problem isn’t the alcohol — though it doesn’t help. The problem is the rapist.

5. Yes means yes. Silence does not imply consent. Learn this lesson, boys and girls, and learn it well.

While I can understand people saying, “Well, we should tell women how to be safe!”, I do have a problem with the implied message that teaching women to look, act, BE a certain way will keep them safe.

If a girl goes to a party, and doesn’t get drunk, but still gets raped, victim-blamers are going to say, “She shouldn’t have gone to the party.” Or, “She shouldn’t have worn a skirt.” Or, “She shouldn’t have been so pretty.”

None of those messages is okay.

What if a woman goes on a few dates with a man? What if he decides he wants to have sex, but she doesn’t? If she invites him in for coffee, and he takes that as an invitation into her bedroom, and she is raped? Should she not have gone on the date? Invited him in?

No. He should not have raped her.

One of the root problems at the heart of rape is the double standard we hold for men and women when it comes to sex. Men are taught to expect sex; boys and men are taught that sex is their right, that they are entitled to have sex.

Women are taught that they have to be good girls. Act the right way, dress the right way, not associate with bad people, not drink too much.

Because of this double standard, it is very easy for some people to blame a victim of rape for her rape.

In rape, it is never the victim’s fault.


I will teach my two daughters and my son the risks inherent in binge drinking — all of the risks. I hope to instill in them a healthy respect for alcohol. I also hope that we can take away the taboo of alcohol, not treat it like a forbidden fruit. I hope by normalizing it a little, the allure will diminish.

An inherent risk of interacting with the opposite sex, however, is rape. And my daughters are not in control of not getting raped. A man is in control of choosing not to rape. We have to teach our sons better, get out the message to men: Don’t rape. Yes means yes.

We also have to make clear that rapes and assaults should be reported. Reported crimes need to be treated seriously, regardless of the social status of the criminal. Regardless of the sobriety of the victim. And the laws have to be more strictly enforced when someone is raped.

I’m not going to rant about ‘rape culture’ — or maybe I just did, I’m not 100 percent clear what that phrase means. Violent crimes of all kinds are down across the board, although you would never know it reading or watching the news.

But articles like the one in Slate, that try to address an aspect of sexual assault in our culture, don’t help the conversation when they are so one-dimensional, and demonize alcohol consumption (which, again, binge drinking = bad news) instead of demonizing rapists.

Random Thoughts: The THIS WEEK! Edition

1. Day 16 of the government shutdown.

Are you effing kidding me?

2. Work is a veritable shit storm. I need a raise.

Seriously, if you have tips about asking for a raise — separate from a review, because HA! Like we have time for reviews around here — enlighten me in the comments. Or at least cheer me on.

3. I am making the Halloween costumes. The girls are helping. They have to be ready for Saturday evening, the “Boo Bash” at the girls’ school.

Stitch Witchery is magic stuff people.

4. It used to be really easy to embed my photos in my posts. Picasa made it super simple.

Google+ apparently wants it to be super hard. The Share option will let me send it via email or post it to my circles. But I can’t seem to find the link to embed it on my site.

Which is tragic, because Flora had a really apt picture I wanted to share. (Some of you probably saw it on Twitter.)

5. So I’ll just share this instead: Flora’s band name? Rock Dove.

6. To clarify number 3: I am not creating costumes from scratch (i.e. a pattern and a sewing machine), I am putting together the girls’ costumes.

M’s costume is a hand-me-down, and we love it. No worries there.

7. M had been poking at his ear for a few days, so yesterday I decided I better have a pediatrician look at it. He never ran a fever (although he quite dramatically will push his bangs up, put the back of his hand on his forehead, and declare, “I’m wohm.” i.e. “warm” No idea where he got that from.)

We went to the doctor yesterday. When the pediatrician came in, he said to M, “What’s going on, buddy?” M said, pulling on his ear, “I need a new ear.”

No infection, however, the amount of wax the ped had to pull out of M’s ears to even check for an infection, and make sure the tubes were still in place, was impressive. And gross.

8. What I want more than anything right now, excepting money, is an entire day completely to myself. Coffee uninterrupted, a day of pampering, reading a book, watching a movie start to finish. A day I don’t have to feed anyone else, or put someone on the potty, or bathe them, or put them in bed. From start to finish, a ME day.

I know in five to 15 years, I will have all the me time I can stand. (I say five years because surely M will have grown out of the phase of “be as close to Mommy as possible” by then.) I will have that uninterrupted time occasionally. I know how selfish I am for wishing for that time now.

I don’t care. I am stretched to the max between home and work, and I just want to take care of myself and my needs for an entire 12 to 24 hours.

It’s futile to wish this today, this week, this month, this year.

But still, there it is.

9. My friend Kim is running a number of Halloween-themed guest posts over at her place in Chicago Now magazine. You should read through them; they are very entertaining.

Yours truly has an upcoming guest post. Keep an eye out!

10. What would your band name be?

Random Thoughts: The Parenting Is SO MUCH FUN Edition

1. I’ve been encouraging the girls to get in the habit of doing their homework in Extended Day. *Most* of the time they do it, and I check it, and the billions of other papers that come home, in the evening. Sometimes they forget. When they forget, they get no screen time until it is done.

Yesterday, Flora had a complete meltdown about homework. How much she hates it. How much she hates school.

And then she showed me the library book she had picked out, which was all about the world’s oceans.

Flora: Loves to learn, hates school.

2. Given further conversation after another meltdown at home, I am sensing that it’s less about school work — although I do think she hates spelling; it’s her lowest grade — and more about certain social aspects of the classroom. I don’t get the sense that she is being bullied, but I do get the sense that she gets teased and reacts badly to the teasing.

My girl, she is sensitive.

For now, I’m not sure what to do. Her solution is home schooling. As I said to her last night, “Who would home school you?”

Neither one of us could answer that.

3. In between meltdown number one and meltdown number two, I learned that somehow Flora had seen the Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball” video and that she was appalled. “She’s naked! On a wrecking ball! Why would she do that?”

Until today, I had not seen this video, and I still haven’t seen the twerking video from the VMAs because, no. I have no interest in Miley Cyrus, her career, or her personal career choices. But I thought I had better check out the video, just in the interest of —

Yup. Holy shit. She’s naked on a wrecking ball. Also: provocatively licking a sledge hammer.

Okay then.

Step one: What I told Flora yesterday boils down to: Miley Cyrus is a grown up. More, she’s a famous grown up who is a singer and actor, and if she doesn’t keep those eyes on her, she becomes less famous. She’s allowed to make her own poor choices now. And, yeah, naked on a wrecking ball = poor choice.

Step two: WHERE IN THE HELL DID FLORA SEE THIS VIDEO? That needs to be determined. We don’t let the girls go on the computer at home. So.

4. M is now wearing underpants. I sent him to daycare this morning in Mickey Mouse skivvies, with a prayer and an extra set of clothes.

I did not potty train M. He decided he was ready. The nanny started putting him on the potty this summer. Things progressed from there. And I did buy him potty fish to encourage his moving in the right direction.

So, if anyone asks me: Yes, boys are easier to potty train than girls. Although Dan’s still going to have to teach him to pee standing up.

What’s been YOUR parenting (or parenting-like) challenge this week?

Simmer Down

When I first saw the headlines, I was simultaneously defensive and depressed. “Study says yelling just as bad for kids as spanking” was the gist.

Well, shit, I thought.

I am a yeller. I lose my shit on my kids. Probably not on a daily basis, but certainly more than I would like, and probably on occasion over stuff that I should not lose my shit over. I’m such a parenting work in progress.

This article about the study definitely gives me motivation to try even harder to do better by my three beans.

Before you a) dismiss the study because you gotta do something to teach those damn kids! or b) get depressed because you yell at your kids, here are some important take-aways.

The study says:
1. It’s not ALL yelling. It’s yelling insults and curses.
2. It’s not ALL kids. It’s yelling at tweens and teens.
3. Yes, the effects of this type of “harsh verbal discipline” from zero-to-two-years out is about the same as physical discipline.

4. The article is less “Never yell at kids!” and more “Communicate better with your children.”

Obviously, the less you scream and yell at your kids, the better it is for everyone.

However, we’re not perfect, patient saints, we’re parents. And our kids aren’t perfect either. We yell when we’ve asked them to do the same thing 10 times in a row. They stomp when they don’t want to do it. Tempers flare despite our best intentions. Children test boundaries — that’s their job. The key is not to freak out on them when they do.

My suggestion for maintaining sanity and temper is my post here about Emotion Coaching. (Seriously, pick up this book. It is so helpful.)

And, you know, don’t scream abuse at your kids. I can easily believe that calling children names and swearing at them is just as damaging as hitting them. And those bruises don’t show.

NFL Stands for Not For (this) Lady

You know what I used to like to do in the fall? Aside from enjoy fall-like temperatures from September to Halloween?

Watch NFL football, especially the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I can’t watch football anymore.

The short list of why I can’t watch the NFL goes like this:

1. Concussions and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and the culture of denial. (This story about Mike Webster just about broke my black-n-gold loving heart.)
2. Health care for former players
3. Roger Goodell
4. Misogyny
5. Rape and domestic abuse (see #4)
6. Murder

I’ve slowly become disillusioned with NFL football because of the business of the NFL, and because of the culture of football in America.

At one time, I was a dedicated watcher of the Steelers. At one time, I really enjoyed NFL football. Heck I developed “Survival Guides” to watching the game if you were the mom of young ones.

My disillusionment probably started with the realization that I didn’t want my son to play football. The issue of concussions, and the effects of football on the body and the brain, have been contentious, and, frankly, I don’t think the NFL has addressed it very well. Players suffering dementia, players committing suicide. I can’t abide the thought that if M wants to play football, this could be a future he’s looking at.

The other aspect of football culture, if you will, that I am terminally troubled by is the attitude toward women. Each week, we hear a new story about an NFL player in a domestic violence dispute, or a public fight with his girlfriend/baby mama, or alleged rape accusations. Yes, Big Ben, I’m looking at you. At first, I thought I could separate these criminal activities from the action on the field.

But this year, this fall, I just can’t.

There is a sense of entitlement that goes with being a pro athlete. It’s probably less prevalent in pro hockey and pro baseball (although, correct me if I’m wrong. We have Sidney Crosby, probably the nicest guy in pro sports ever. Well, with the exception of Mario Lemiuex). I don’t follow MLB closely — and I don’t follow the NBA at all.

This culture of entitlement is at the root of things like the Stuebenville rape case and the Aaron Hernandez allegations.

I’m not going to call for a boycott of the NFL. I used to scoff at people who likened it to the bloodsport of emperors, the gladiator showdowns of ancient Rome. But in light of the increasing incidence of CTE, I get queasy watching the lines run into each other now.

Admittedly, it helps when your NFL team is down 0-4 in a season when hockey is hot, and playoff baseball is hotter. (Which, there’s a phrase I didn’t think I’d be writing about the Pirates in October.)

But I think I need to opt out of NFL-watching for awhile. I’ll buy my kids some Pirates’ gear and teach them the finer points of hockey. If the NFL gets a little safer for its players, and takes more responsibility for their health care when they retire; if high school and college and pro football players stop acting like and being treated like entitled creatures who can get away with crimes; and if the culture of misogyny can be properly addressed and ended, I’ll come back as a fan. And be happy to watch with my daughters and son, and teach them the finer points of football, too.

Has anything given you misgivings about watching your sport of choice?

The Shutdown Rant

I can tell that I’ve already alienated people on Twitter because I’ve been on this topic. I’m pretty okay with that. I figure you have to speak up for what you believe in. If your political opinion or religious faith *offend* someone, then that’s up to them to deal with. I believe in loving one another and tolerance, but I don’t believe in ignorance.

I can’t believe that the government has been in “partial” shutdown for nearly four days now. I could get into all the yadda-yadda-yadda about who’s to blame (Tea Party Republicans and the GOP leadership) and why it’s bad for the country (our politicians aren’t supposed to throw a fit to change LAWS they don’t like; we have a different process for that. It’s in the constitution!)

But James Fallows at The Atlantic pretty much nails it. So you can go read his take instead. Remember: both sides are not equally culpable. It’s the GOP who is crashing this country. If you want to blame the President and the Democrats for doing nothing and for not negotiating, you go right ahead. They don’t have anything to negotiate on. The Tea Party is being completely unreasonable.

To review: The Affordable Care Act was passed into law in 2010. The Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional in June 2012. And Obama was reelected in 2012.

Yeah, the law is complicated; most laws are. And yeah, a lot of people have a lot of misgivings and doubts and questions.

But you don’t shutdown a government because you don’t like one of its laws. That’s not how it works. Well, I guess this time it is.

Guess what? Government is shutdown, and Obamacare is rolling out.

I have serious concerns about this shutdown. It is hurting real people. Real families. I don’t think Congress and conservative pundits realize that. I heard a bunch of conservative pundits going on yesterday about how it’s a minor inconvenience.

Guess what, if you have two parents working for the government in non-essential roles, it’s a little more than inconvenient to not be getting a paycheck. Especially if you’ve already been affected by the sequester, and have been furloughed for the past few months.

If you are a poor mom who depends on Head Start to get to your job on time while knowing your kids are fed and cared for until school starts, you’re a little more than inconvenienced. If you don’t have a backup plan for childcare, you’re shit out of luck.

If you are poor, elderly, sick, and you rely on government programs to help you get well or get work, you’re screwed.

And let me tell you something else: the GOP doesn’t care. They aren’t holding their breath until they turn blue. They are getting paid.

They’re telling poor, and sick, and elderly people, they are telling “non-essential” government employees to hold their breath.

Donate to your local food banks. See if they will take formula and diapers because WIC, the program for Women, Infants, and Children, is running out of money and shutting its doors across the country. Write, call, email, and tweet your representatives. I didn’t vote for the Republican in my district, but I’ve emailed and tweeted.

I could very well lose my job, too, and I don’t work in government. The company for which I work depends heavily — too heavily for my comfort right now — on government spending. It’s a little tense around the office lately.

Don’t sit around and think this shutdown stinks because people won’t stop talking about it and some tourists are being inconvenienced.

Act now. And do something in the next election if one of your guys (or gals) contributed to this mess.


I got an email from my girls’ school last week. It basically said that the Intruder Lockdown drill the school had done with the students went very well. Then it further informed me that they would let us know how next month’s lockdown drill went.

I have some conflicting feelings, most of them summed up pretty well here, “Are Lockdown Drills Necessary?”.

Due to the Sandy Hook tragedy last December, my children’s school has implemented some extra security measures this year. And I’m fine with that. I’m not even necessarily against security drills per se. Sure, teach the kids what to do in an emergency. More importantly, teach the teachers and administrators how to calmly direct kids, and keep them safe without freaking them out.

But once a month? I talked to one father whose school does them once a week.

That seems like overkill. It’s what Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids calls worst-first thinking. We take the worst case scenario, and prepare for that.

Again, I understand drills, and being prepared. We had fire drills at school — maybe twice a year. What I don’t understand is the frequency of these lockdown drills and inculcating children to the fact that a gunman is going to break into their school. Random school shootings are incredibly, incredibly rare (and horrifically tragic). The messages I want my kids to receive are that school is a safe place, and that the adults around are ready to deal with emergencies.

The latter shouldn’t take monthly drills, in my opinion.


When I talked to my girls about this, they were very matter-of-fact, so I’m grateful. According to Flora, her teacher has a big, red bucket full of snacks. “And toilet paper,” she added.

Toilet paper?

“Sure. And if someone has to go to bathroom, they have to use the bucket.” She thought for a minute. “I guess we’d have to dump the snacks out first.”

I guess!

Does your kid’s school (or kids’ schools) do lockdowns? How do you feel about that?