The Dreaded Halloween Costume

As the leaves turn golden and the first chill in the morning gives way to scorching Southern California afternoons, it seems we have slipped into the fall season, which I mostly like, except for one particular event that makes me cringe-the dreaded Halloween costume shopping.

Now, I take great delight in picking out baby’s costume (this year she is a puppy), but the big kids are another story all-together.  First they beg and plead for me to drive them to the mega-land Halloween store which I’m pretty sure is the main clothing resource for serial killers and prostitutes.  I seriously despise these places.

Generally, I make the kids stay one aisle behind me as I scope out the next, that way I can deter them from a particularly raunchy or gruesome stretch.  People look at me like I’m nuts; “Kids, abort, abort…don’t go down this aisle. It’s The Girls Next Door meets The House Bunny.”

I know my son get’s an eyeful every time we go to these places, despite my stalking around like an over-protective mama bear.  Can someone please tell me why Halloween has become a socially acceptable day to dress like a slut or better yet Freddy Krueger? ( And yes, I do remember dressing up as a sexy Red Riding Hood one year in college.  I know the pot’s calling the kettle black here, but I’ve matured people!)

Faith is at the awkward age between little girl costumes and the dubious Jr’s section.  Anything in Jr’s has big gaping pockets for the tween’s chest, and since most ten-year olds are still growing, I can only assume the boob pockets are to hold candy?

Two years ago she was little Bo Peep, which means mommy had to do some altering of the sexy sheep girl’s ensemble.  First we bought big, so the skirt covered her bum, then we laced her up tight and made her wear a shirt underneath.  We also had to do some creative pleating along the top and add some big bows to cover the gaps.  She looked adorable once we were done, but the effort was hardly worth the fifty dollars they charge for this riff-raff.

Last year she dressed as an eighties girl and I breathed a sigh of relief. She looked like a cross between Cindy Lauper and Madonna, with a hot pink tutu and green streaked hair, but who was I to complain? At least she was modest.

Kyle on the hand dressed as a priest with black sunglasses.  Was it irreverent? Possibly.  This year he’s going to be a Mexican Bull Fighter. I know, right? It just gets better and better.

At least I get to dress up the baby in whatever I want. Next year I’m rolling out the princess gowns. Whoopee!!!!



First steps and last steps…

Baby steps

Today my kids and I went on an unusual adventure. After church, I packed up my little tribe and hustled them to the car, explaining that we were heading over to the Vintage Sr. Center for a high tea and a little socializing with our elderly neighbors.  My twelve-year-old son, who is generally amiable and warm-hearted seemed up for the occasion, though he did comment under his breath that old people smell.  My nine-year old drama queen on the other hand, ran and asked her dad if she could stay at church to clean up, tried to arrange an impromptu play-date and looked for any loophole possible to avoid accompanying us.  The baby was on board, but then again, at nine months old, she didn’t have much of a choice.

I dressed the girls in costumes, both for Halloween’s s sake and because I thought the Sr. residents of Vintage would enjoy seeing a cute baby dressed as Wonder Woman and my older daughter decked out as an 80’s style Valley Girl.  But poop happens, and the baby had a blow out all over her costume and the left half of my body as I walked into church.  I cleaned myself up, but I reckon if you sniffed real close, I was borderline stinky.  It was one of those days.

So, in we marched to Vintage Sr. Center…a weary mom, a hyper baby, a reluctant pre-tween in a pink tutu, and my easy-going son. We stopped on the patio and greeted a few seniors who were taking some air.  They oohed and ahhed over the baby and we smiled and made small talk before heading in.The Sr. Center was surprisingly lovely.  I was caught off guard by the soothing decor, calming fountains, and tableaux of lush flowers and inviting spaces. The communal area was set up for the tea with tables decorated in harvest linens and china resplendent with tiny sandwiches, fresh fruit, and sweets. 

About twenty elderly ladies were assembled for the tea and we jumped in to join the festivities.  I made the rounds with the baby, and let her simple charm and utter innocence bless the ladies. And the baby obliged, smiling and giggling, while proudly showing off her two new teeth.  She clapped and waved, danced and performed for her audience of approving grannies, reveling in their attention and genuine delight.  But babies have limited attention spans, and after a while she whimpered to get down and explore on the ground.

Like lightening, the baby crawled over to the one solo male, sitting alone with a walker in front of him. She climbed up on the side of the walker and to her surprise, it moved.  On the cusp of walking, the baby had found a strong sturdy aid to help her take her first steps.  I glanced up at the man, hoping he wouldn’t mind that the baby had absconded his only source of mobility, but he seemed enthralled by my wee tyke now making circles with the walker.

He leaned over and said in a raspy voice, “You know, I never thought I would walk again, but I’ve been working hard with the physical therapist to strengthen my legs and I can even do the stairs now.  Soon, I should be able to get around with just a cane.”

As the baby made circle after circle with the walker, fiercely determined to take one step after another, the man talked about losing his good friend to a stroke only a few days before. His matter of fact demeanor appeared callous at first, but then it began to dawn on me that in this environment, he was getting used to loss. I scooted close to listen, recognizing the sacredness of an open heart and a lifetime of wisdom being shared.

He told me there were two types of residents at the Sr. Home, the terminal and those in transition. The transitional folks were there for a set period of time to recover from a surgery or a fall while their families arranged a way to bring them home with assisted care, but the others were there until they died.  It was their final home on this earth. He said it made all the difference in the world how the residents identified themselves. He said the terminal were hopeless and sad…their spirits bitter and hard. But the transitional residents had a promise of recovery and home, a reward at the end of a long and painful journey.

The man smiled at me and proclaimed,” I am going home again when I can walk. Just like that baby forging ahead, I refuse to end my life here.”

I caught my son’s eye and winked; delighted he was engaged in helping set up the slide show for the poetry reading. Then we drank tea, listened to Casey at the Bat and enjoyed cupcakes. I saw my older daughter drawing pictures and presenting them to the elderly ladies, smiling and preening in her costume. Eventually, the baby grew tired of her game, crawled into my arms and fell asleep.

As I gathered up my kids to go home, and hugged my new friend good-bye, I asked him if I could come back and play cards with him.  He nodded “yes”, excitedly muttering something about Gin Rummy.

I drove off pondering his statement about the two types of residents at the Sr. Home.  I was struck by how profound his observations were and how it also applied to a much bigger realm than just the Vintage Sr. Center.

Our perspective on life, our very identity rests on how we view ourselves on this planet, either as transitional–with the hope of eternal life and a greater kingdom awaiting us, or as terminal—life consisting of a limited time and place, with a beginning and end, and then no more. Even the most decadent Sr. Home in the world would feel like hell, if you looked at as your last step to the grave.

The man knew that to have a life, he had to change his perspective.   

Later that night, I asked my son if he enjoyed himself at the Sr. Home. He responded with a decisive, “Yes! They didn’t smell bad at all, but you on the other hand, need to take a shower.”


I was a journalism major in college, and then a theatre major, moved to political science, and  finally graduated with a degree in history.  My BA should have an MA in ADD.  Summing up all my skills, I think this qualifies me to write a little about a lot or maybe a lot of nonsense.  I found out the other day nonsense is actually a language and you don’t need Rosetta Stone to become proficient at it.  My daughter and her friend were in the back of the car arguing about whether it was a real language or not.  So we looked it up on  Wikipedia.  Turns out my daughter was right.  Nonsense is  real as much as reality sometimes seems like nonsense.

Nonsense is a verbal communication or written text that is spoken or written in a human language or other symbolic system but lacks any coherent meaning. Many poets, novelists and songwriters have used nonsense in their works, often creating entire works using it.

An example of nonsense: when you are just on the verge of falling asleep and you say random things to your spouse with absolutely no context for the current conversation. Our subconscious mind on the edge of slumber can turn the most articulate person into a babbling fool.  Oh, if only we had tape recorders in those moments. I love it when my husband snuggles into the pillow, then blurts out, “What did the guy in green the car say?”

I think he said, “You’re out of gas, Mr. Over-tired!”

Literary nonsense takes it one step further and for a writer is a cornucopia of delicious words to play with.  In its essence, literary nonsense is contradiction using correct grammar that results in any lack of meaning. The saying, “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”  penned by Noam Chomsky is an example of nonsense.

So in honor of fall, autumn and the pure love of spooky words , here is a stab at some Jabberwocky(a poem of nonsense).

The jack-o-lanterns menacing grin lulled the small child into a state of tranquility.

The sweet comfort of terror filling the night with peace.

Snickers and candy corn creating a cacophony of song

And blackest  midnight dancing a jig with dawn.


Un balle-à-leunettes - a jack-o-lantern

Image via Wikipedia

My family moved into a suburban neighborhood like no other this last year.

It is akin to Wisteria lane on steroids.

Currently there are 49 children on our block.  Our home, a taupe colored shingled Craftsman, sits on the corner with a large wrap around porch and is dead center in the hub of activity.

Summer nights are filled with shrieks and laughter, street barbecues and ditch’em, hide and seek and babies in diapers crawling around on the grass as mommies linger outside to milk in the last rays of light.

Every fantasy I envisioned of a loving community of people doing life together has been more than fulfilled when I look out my window in the morning and see neighbors smiling and waving.

Coming from a cramped condo with three kids, there aren’t enough words to describe this bliss.  Now as Fall approaches, we are being indoctrinated into a new series of neighborhood rituals.

The Halloween decorations are beginning to pop up…pumpkins and spiders, webs and ghouls.  The trees are glowing with orange jack-o-lantern lights and scarecrows smiling at sinister zombies.

Our street is reminiscent of a Normal Rockwell painting juxtaposed with cheap Costco decorations.  It is Americana at it’s finest…awesome and over commercialized.

A few nights ago, I was at home cuddled up on the sofa writing. My older kids and husband were at sports practice,while the baby played at my feet and dismantled the neatly kept playroom, one toy at a time.  Out of the blue, the doorbell rang and I heard leaves crunching, feet running away and heavy breathing.

I nervously peered out the peephole, and saw nothing but ominous darkness. Wisteria lane had become Hysteria Lane in my mind as I conjured up home invasions and kidnappers.  I bolted the door and walked to the window.  Then it rang again, but this time I spied little feet running away and ascertained that it was a small child and probably not a big threat.  I slowly opened the door and looked around.  In front of the doorstep was a big bag filled with goodies.

On the outside of the bag…was the word BOO!

Inside the BOO bag were Halloween crafts, pumpkin decorating tools, outdoor decorations, candy, shoelaces and a letter.  It explained that we needed to display an orange pumpkin cutout that said BOO on our home and within two days repeat this activity to two  neighbors.  If the plan worked, by Halloween our whole neighborhood would be a BOO friendly zone, and every child would share in the excitement.

My kids were so excited when they came home and quickly dug into their booty.  Then we plotted and planned who would be the recipient of our booing.

Choosing which neighbors to BOO was the hard part, but we unanimously decided upon the new family across the street, with two little ones and our neighbor behind us, who is a widowed father. First we assembled the bags.  Dog bones, pretzels, ghost marshmallows, assorted candy and freshly baked cookies for the neighbor behind us.  For the young family we found Halloween cut-outs, plastic spiders, candy, cookies and toy boats handmade for their toddler boy.  We giggled and delighted in our efforts, then headed out the door on a mission to spook our neighbors and bless them.

First, we hit the neighbors with the little kids.  They live in a beautiful yellow clapboard home with a white picket fence and large front yard.  A little red baby swing hangs from the eaves of their porch and toys are scattered askew.

My son slowly opened their front gate, tip-toed up to the door, rang the doorbell and bolted.  The baby and I watched from our front window, while my daughter hid behind a car in their driveway with my son.  The young dad peered out his front door,  but didn’t see anyone. They have a beveled glass top door, so we were fortunate to be able to watch his reactions.

He looked around suspiciously, then slowly opened the door and spied the BOO bag.  He looked around again as my kids, hiding in his driveway stifled guffaws, then picked up the bag and upon realizing it was a surprise, called out for his little boy and they happily tore into the bag.  Mission accomplished!  We tricked them and then treated them…mmmm, I wonder if that’s how it all started?

House number two was a different type of BOO.  Not long before we moved in, our neighbor behind us had lost his wife to cancer.  He was still living in her dream home, a romantic Spanish style abode with a lush yard and arched entryway.  His daughter, a beautiful girl in her mid-twenties, had moved home to help with her mother’s care in the last days.  She is still living with him, and slowly recapturing her spirit after the devastation.  The younger son is in college but also lives at home.  He doesn’t smile much and keeps his distance.  They are fragile, at best, and we desperately wanted to make things better.  So we BOO’d them.  A simple but intentional move to show them we cared.

Our plan was to plant our nine month old baby on the doorstep, armed with a glow stick and the BOO bag.  I hid closely behind the arch as we rang the bell.  But in our sneaky plans, we forgot about their dog.  Bullet, a large Siberian Husky bounded up to the door barking furiously.  In a flash, I grabbed the baby who started crying.  Tim opened the door and there I stood…with a crying baby, a BOO bag, and two older kids yelling at me, “abort, abort.”.

I was a BOO failure!

Then Tim called the dog off and asked me what I was doing.  Before I could say anything, he saw the bag.  “Are you BOOing me?” he asked.

“Yes, but I didn’t do a very good job,” I said.

He didn’t say anything more, took the bag from my hands and slowly shut the door. Just before it closed he looked up at me and smiled.

So , maybe our covert operation was more awkward than finely tuned, but our hearts were full and our souls nourished as we headed home. The BOOing had allowed us, for a moment in time, to be a part of something bigger and to step out of the ordinary and mundane in our lives.  We learned that being a  neighbor isn’t just about living in a neighborhood…it’s about engaging in the stories of humanity. Mr. Rogers put it this way, “If you could only sense how important you are to the lives of those you meet; how important you can be to the people you may never even dream of. There is something of yourself that you leave at every meeting with another person.”

And as I drifted off to sleep that night, a familiar song of childhood came to mind… “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  Won’t you be my neighbor?”

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