It’s Halloween Already?

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on October 30, 2013.

Time is going too fast. Every year I have ideas of what I can do with the boys – fall crafts, books to read, and other fun stuff. But here it is Halloween, and I haven’t even pulled out our seasonal books from storage. Truth is, I’m not much of a craft person anyway.  We’ve been doing some low-key stuff this autumn and getting ready for Halloween in our own, simple way.

My seven-year-old knew what he wanted to be for Halloween six months ago, and luckily it was an easy costume to find. My husband took him shopping, and they found a cool skeleton outfit that he’ll wear trick or treating tomorrow tonight.

My four-year-old still has not outgrown his quirky habit of refusing to wear anything except shorts and short sleeves. Yes, this will be a long winter, just like last year! A costume is out of the question for him, but he will wear long-pant pajamas, so maybe I can get him to wear those Toy Story Woody pjs on Halloween night. Wish me luck.

We pulled out some of our Halloween décor and decorated our front porch, but we keep it simple. A few small ghosts, a spider web that my son made, and a scary-looking guy hanging from the ceiling is about all I care to do. We’ll carve a pumpkin to finish it off before the big day. (We did! See photo.)

One event that has become a tradition for us is attending the Scary, Slimy, Oozy Day at the Sandy Creek Nature Center. My son never wants to pass up the chance to pet snakes or hold a tarantula, and they have lots of fun activities for kids to participate in too.

This fall my seven-year-old went to his very first sleepover with two friends too.  It was a birthday party for one of the little boys. Since he has never slept away from us, I wasn’t sure how he would feel about it, but he was more excited than I have ever seen him before. He was gone about 23 hours, and I think he would have gladly stayed longer!

The mom who hosted the sleepover told me that at one point my son said, “I think my family will miss me so much. I’ve never been away from them before.” Thinking that he might be a little homesick, she offered to call us so he could go home early. She said he looked at her like she was crazy and said, “NO! I’m staying the WHOLE TIME!”

My four-year-old wasn’t happy when he discovered he was not invited to the birthday party, and I felt horrible that I had not considered that. It was hard to tell him that the sleepover was just for the big boys, but he recovered quickly when I assured him he would be treated to a good time by spending one-on-one time with his parents, which doesn’t happen very often.

We took him out to dinner, shopping for a new ball and Frisbee, which he loves to play with outside with his dad, and I watched his favorite movie with him. He snuggled up in my lap and whispered in my ear a lot, so I guess you could say I had a date night myself!

Every year brings new milestones and new experiences.  As tomorrow today marks my 42nd birthday, I am not so weary about growing older as I thought I would be. My 40s are the most challenging, wonderful, and least boring of all my years on this earth.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween

Pumpkin with a Brain. For instructions, click here.

Note: This column is printed in the October 31, 2012 edition of the Barrow Journal.

Once a couple creates a family, they realize that family life is full of harrowing moments and howls in the dark. Little monsters — ahem — Lovable little monsters invade their lives…

This will be my sixth Halloween with children, and in that time it’s become my favorite holiday.  The fact that it’s also my birthday might play a part in that too, but really, it doesn’t have the stress that comes with Christmas or Thanksgiving.  Stress shouldn’t come with any holiday, but unfortunately it does.  Halloween…it’s just fun.

The weather is beautiful. I love autumn temperatures, changing leaves and the opportunity to make soup. We can get outside frequently, do some gardening and pull out the hiking boots.

Costumes are fun, though sometimes a challenge.  At one-year-old, my sons were both too young to protest the pumpkin costume I made them wear.  As they get older, they are more opinionated.  At two, my eldest liked the Peter Pan costume I picked for him, but I knew better than to try to put anything over his head.

At three, he had his “not interested in Halloween” year.  The decorations in the stores scared him, and my husband ended up treating him to McDonalds on the night of Halloween while I stayed home to greet the trick or treaters.

Last year my three-year-old also went through that phase, and he wanted nothing to do with trick or treating or a costume. I don’t know which way he’ll go this year, but I haven’t bothered to buy him a costume. I can’t get him to wear long sleeves let alone a costume (and coincidently his brother dislikes short sleeves – go figure.)

My six-year-old is all into Halloween costumes now, and this year he made it easy on us by not having any pre-conceived idea of what he wanted to be. He just wanted to go to the store and look.  We were there quite a while and almost came home empty-handed. Why do costume makers think all little boys want to be super heroes?  My son is not into super heroes at all.

Finally I spotted something we had overlooked, and my son grabbed it right away – an extraterrestrial!  It’s a green costume with three-fingered gloves and a mask with big, black eyes. The torso has a faint outline of the internal organs of this alien. Simple, yet very cool looking.

All children should be encouraged to play make-believe, and I consider Halloween a celebration of that.  As with any holiday or ritual, each new family has to create their own traditions and meanings.  Sometimes we keep old traditions, tweak them, or change them altogether.  For me, Halloween is for the children.  It’s a chance for them to be whatever they want and continue the play as they step out into the community.

It’s also fun for me because I get to watch how excited they are, and I get to accompany them on their journey around the neighborhood – a good excuse to get out and say hello to the neighbors too.  The candy is another story, especially since I end up eating so much of it, but that’s a small price to pay for a day of play.

Here’s wishing you a safe and happy Halloween.

Happy Boo Day


This column was originally printed in the October 26, 2011 edition of the Barrow Journal.

Happy Halloween and Turning Forty

When you’re a child, having a birthday on Halloween is a pretty cool thing.  Besides cake and presents, you also get to dress up in a funny costume and go trick or treating.  You get invited to parties, and though they aren’t for you, everyone pays you special attention.

When you’re an adult with children, having a birthday on Halloween is a pretty cool thing, but only because it’s easily forgotten.

My five-year-old is so excited that Halloween is coming.  He decided several weeks ago that he wanted to be a ghost.  Since I’m not a crafty person, we went to several stores the other day looking for a costume.  Why are ghost costumes so hard to come by?  Sure, we could just throw a sheet over his head, but I wanted something more creative.

We finally found a ghost costume his size, but it has a scary mask with it.  He doesn’t want to wear the mask, but he’s happy with the rest of the costume.  I tried talking him into wearing make-up or at least a white hat, but he doesn’t want that either.  So, his costume may look a little incomplete, but he likes it, and that’s all that matters.

As for my two-year-old, I’m hoping he’ll be happy with the Peter Pan hand-me-down.  Since it’s a non-frills costume (which we needed when the eldest was this age), I’m hoping it’ll work well for him too.

We’ve done a little decorating.  “Little” is the key word.  As I said, I’m not a crafty person, and decorations tend to stay subdued at my house.  But we’re slowly adding on to them each year, and my son and I have made a bat and pumpkin out of construction paper.  We strung some pumpkin lights in our activity room and a few paper ghosts on the front porch.

I’m happy to report that the small pumpkins my son grew this summer and harvested in August are still firm enough to sit on the porch without attracting flies.  Unfortunately, his second crop of pumpkins is not going to be ready for the holiday.  The plants are flowering right now, and I doubt they’ll survive the winter, but you never know in this unpredictable Georgia weather.

We still have to visit a pumpkin patch, attend a Halloween carnival, and read more Halloween books.  But behind all this ghostly activity, I am aware that I will be reaching the summit and climbing “over the hill” on Halloween.

Once she reached the age of forty, my grandmother told everyone she was 39 for about 42 years…until the day she died.  My mother takes a different approach. Sometimes she’ll tell people she’s older than she really is because she wants them to think she looks great for her age.

At least for now, I don’t mind telling people I’m forty.  I think I’ve earned my age, and I’m looking forward to this next decade.

Perhaps some will argue with me (and I welcome that because I’m still learning on this journey), but I think by the time you are forty, finally you have a grasp of the myriad of emotions, possibilities and disappointments that life offers.  You have probably lived enough to see or be touched by most of them.

At forty I know I’m extremely lucky.  Though I have lived through heartache, disappointment, lonely times and humbling times, I have kept healthy, and I have not suffered severe tragedy.  But I’ve watched disease and tragedy touch the lives of loved ones, so I know how easily it could happen to me.  I try not to take my life for granted.

Not all my dreams have come true, and this still stings.  But I hold onto this tiny card I found in the packaging of my one of my son’s toys: “You know what? Not all dreams come true. But that’s okay because you can always make new dreams.” It’s attributed to “Katie, age 4.”

It doesn’t surprise me that such wisdom comes from a four-year-old.  I have gained more wisdom from rearing young children than I ever had in my previous, childless life.  And the best perk of homeschooling is that I get to explore the world and learn along with them.

They have taught me that happiness is truly in the small details.  It’s in the everyday routine and the little discoveries we make along the way.  I think this is why I love photography too.  It has given me a keen eye for small details, light and shadows.  Everyday objects come alive in the right light.

If there’s anything I hope to instill in my boys as they grow older it is not to forget those feelings of wonder.  I want them to hold onto their curiosity.  The world begins to get darker as we grow older, but that doesn’t mean those small joys are gone.

So I’ll be sneaking candy, lighting jack-o-lanterns, and following my boys’ lead on my birthday.  Hopefully there won’t be any trickery.  Just smiles, giggles and treats.

Happy Halloween to all of you!  May you receive lots of treats and no tricks this holiday.