The History of Halloween

Growing up, Halloween was not a holiday celebrated in our family. I was raised in a conservative Christian household and Halloween was associated with rituals and theories that did not align with those of my parents. As a result, my siblings and I did not dress up in costumes, nor did we trick or treat.

To compensate for our exclusion from a childhood tradition, I can remember my parents taking us places on the night of Halloween so we wouldn’t be home. One year, my mom gave my sister and I a significant bowl of candy and let us watch the trick or treaters from our upstairs bedroom window. We always had our lights off on Halloween and we never answered the door.

It sounds very dreary but it wasn’t. I didn’t know what I was missing really; I was only about Henry’s age. I definitely don’t remember being bothered or upset about it too much. And, as the youngest of four children, I was the beneficiary of a more relaxed parenting style as my siblings and I aged. By the time we moved to Indiana, I was permitted to celebrate with the pagans a bit and can remember canvassing the neighborhood for candy in middle school.

Having an untraditional introduction to a traditional holiday like Halloween has thrown me a bit as an adult. And, especially as a parent. Since I didn’t grow up celebrating Halloween, its rituals and conventions are a bit lost on me. I GET the point of the holiday, I’m just COMPLETELY unenthused, if that makes sense.

Historically, Halloween has been a last minute endeavor around here. When the sun starts to set on October 31, I usually look at the boys, ask if anyone wants to go trick or treating, pull out the dress-up bin from the closet and say, “Have at it.” There is no forethought put into costumes or adornments. I definitely remember buying pumpkins last year but carving them seemed super messy so I think they were relegated to Autumnal Decoration on the front stoop.

The thing is, people in the suburbs really love Halloween. You should see my neighborhood. It’s all orange lights, fake bodies emerging from fake tombstones, cotton cobwebs on bushes, bats and ghosts swinging from porch rafters. Someone has even set up an honest-to-goodness haunted house on their front porch that trick or treaters can traipse through. Last year, our first Halloween here, I ran out of candy. And, I had a lot of candy. I also ran out of patience because, goodness kids, it’s 9:30 at night so stop ringing my doorbell and go home. You have school tomorrow.

Bowing to peer pressure, this year, I vowed to put about 50 percent more effort into Halloween. Which means, I started discussing costumes with the kids two days ago.

Henry is going as a character from Lego’s Hero Factory. He designed and drew his own chest emblem with the Hero Factory logo and while it is admirable for its creativity, I can’t help but think it resembles a health textbook sketch of the female reproductive system. I guess that’s a costume idea in and of itself.

I'm just going to go ahead and let this happen.

I’m just going to go ahead and let this happen.

Charlie, inspired by his Uncle’s four-wheeler, is going as an ATV driver. The puffy vest is an integral part of his costume (according to him), even if it is two sizes too big and 80 degrees out there today.

Definitely top-heavy.

Definitely top-heavy. Combine this with a giant bucket of candy and I’m not sure he can remain upright.

Millie doesn’t really have time for this ridiculous exercise or whatever other nonsense we throw in her path to becoming a two-year-old tween but I forced her into a hand-me-down strawberry costume. Because if I’m going to put 50 percent more effort into Halloween, I want 50 percent cuter pictures.

She is merely tolerating these shenanigans.

She is merely tolerating these shenanigans.

Have a Happy Halloween you guys! Here’s hoping you and your kids have a safe night of politely asking other people for food. And, may your kids bring home only the good stuff. None of that Laffy Taffy crap.

The Tale of the Horrible Housekeeper

A couple of weeks ago, Bob and I toured some brand new homes. They were enormous. I think one was close to 5,000 square feet and while standing in the cavernous finished basement, looking at what seemed like miles of brand new carpeting, Bob exclaimed, “Just imagine how much you could NOT keep this clean!”

Bob was, of course, referencing my housekeeping skills, of which I am not necessarily known for. I should be offended, right? But, I’m not. I am terrible at keeping house. Tending to our home. Deep cleaning. Or, whatever else you want to call the menial tasks of scrubbing toilets and wiping baseboards and figuring out what that weird sticky substance underneath the table is. I fully own up to my failings on the housekeeping front. I can’t be bothered with stained grout or dust bunnies or making the beds every single day.

I mean, I have stuff to do. Mostly on the Internet.

A few months ago, something awful (I can’t remember exactly WHAT it was), spilled in the refrigerator. It chilled, hardened, looked disgusting and appeared super difficult to clean. I think it dripped down and I was going to have to do something extra complicated, like remove a shelf or bin, to access it. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that I actually crunched the numbers on just buying a new fridge and having the old one hauled away.

It wasn’t always like this. In fact, when I was living on my own in an assortment of post-college rentals, I had no problem keeping my surroundings spic and span.  It was just me and everywhere I lived was rather compact. When there is no one else around to muck up your tiny space, staying neat and tidy is easy.

Then, this happened and all hope was lost:

Helpie-Selfie

Helpie-Selfie

As much as I would like to, I can’t entirely blame the kids. But, there is kind of a self-defeatist aspect in trying to keep a floor free of crumbs when the vast majority of the people in your house cannot seem to get food from their plate to their mouth via the most direct route. Not to mention that having two boys means unspeakable bathroom conditions. There are so many aspects of parenthood that are just gross, man, and the pottying habits of boys tops the list.

There is also the first-world issue of our large house. While our old home was a very manageable 1,900 square feet, our current home is about 3,000 square feet. My mom wisely commented after a visit, “That’s a lot of house, dear.” I think she was just trying to make me feel better about the cobweb she walked through when she went to set her suitcase down in the guest bedroom. But, it IS a lot of house. Too much house. Too many nooks and crannies to stay on top of. Too many rooms that we kind of don’t even use. Too many extraneous pieces of furniture to keep free from fingerprints.

(My sister, who has raised a family of six+ in a home with one bathroom, wants to punch me in my whiny face right now, I bet.)

But, let me clarify. We’re definitely not living in squalor. Our home isn’t filthy. In fact, just looking at it on the surface, it looks quite clean because there is never really any clutter laying around. I am insanely organized. Pretty much compulsively so. I mean, I could produce a receipt for you right now for a piece of jewelry I purchased back in 2002. Or, show you how I’ve sorted all of our medical records by year and family member. Every toy has a spot where it is stored and our junk is so limited that we don’t even have a kitchen drawer dedicated to it. I am excellent at containing the clutter. So, organization isn’t the problem.

The problem is finding the time to do anything else beyond that. The Big Stuff. Like, washing windows and wiping down cabinets. The things that you should really do regularly. After all, I’m pretty sure sniffing the kids’ bath towels isn’t really an effective way to determine cleanliness.

I basically only have two household goals when Bob is away at work during the week. They are to keep the dishes and the laundry from piling up. I can feed and clean the kids, get everybody to and from school and activities, complete homework and sort school papers but finding time in that mix to do anything cleaning-related besides dishes and laundry is nearly impossible. So, while our home isn’t revolting or anything, it’s just not as clean as I’d like it to be. My dream is to be able to have unexpected guests drop by and for me to not panic over the state of the half-bath.

If only this was actually helpful in getting the dishes done.

If only this was actually helpful.

So, how do I get from here (dusty, so very dusty) all the way to over there (gleaming floors)?

A hired cleaning team is out of the question. And, not because Bob would protest but because I refuse. We had a cleaning lady when I was working full-time and while having the bathrooms and floors cleaned on a regular basis was really nice, I just feel like this is something I should be able to do since I’m home during the day.

I have a feeling that people who have their housekeeping life in order use some sort of schedule. Am I right about this? Their tasks are written down so they know when to change the sheets in this room and wipe the ceiling fan blades in this other room. All orderly and reasonable-like. I do really enjoy making lists and I bet some of my friends would share their cleaning schedules with me if they were to visit and see how badly someone needs to sweep the front porch.

However, a big part of my personality is that I like to be able to finish a project once I’ve started. And, since my days are just a series of 15-minute intervals of free time in between tending to an adorable kid(s) that wants to be read to or hugged or fed, finishing a task isn’t guaranteed, even if it IS written down. And, this feels sort of defeating in its own way.

Plus, just to do something simple, like cleaning the kitchen floors, opens up a Pandora’s box of other tasks that have to get completed first. Because before I can mop the floor, I have to vacuum. Before I can vacuum, I have to pick up all of the throw rugs. Before I can pick up all of the throw rugs, I have to pick up all of the toys on the throw rugs. And, before you know it, I’m just going to go check facebook for a minute…

So, you can see why this is so complicated. I guess the bigger question is, should I just go back to work full-time so I can justify the hiring of a cleaning lady?

I’ll Cry If I Want To

It’s my birthday today. Guess what my kids got for me? Go ahead… guess! I bet you weren’t thinking three cases of a raging head cold and a hacking cough! It’s the gift that keeps on giving since just when I think the illness has run through every person under eight in our house, someone else will pick up a slightly different variation of it and start the whole cycle all over again. It’s super snotty around here. Awesome, right? I know! Happy birthday to ME!

Not visible: Crusty nose and watery eyes.

I Instagram’ed out the crusty nose and watery eyes.

Weekend before last, when we were celebrating Millie’s birthday, Charlie was doing that totally annoying thing that kids do where they get jealous of attention being shown to others so they try their best to shift all eyes back to themselves. In Charlie’s case, this involved knocking toys off a shelf causing a loud crash right in the middle of us singing a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” (His motives may have been selfish but his timing was impeccable!)

That behavior sucks, so part of the disciplinary fallout from Charlie’s actions involved a timeout in his room. As he was sitting remorsefully on his bed, crying in an attempt to extrude maximum pity, I firmly explained to him all about birthdays and how we celebrate different people at different times in this family.

“Sometimes, we celebrate Daddy. Sometimes, we celebrate Millie. Sometimes, we celebrate Henry and sometimes, we celebrate you.”

And, in a moment of complete self-indulgence, I hollered, “AND, YOU KNOW WHAT? NO ONE EVER CELEBRATES MOMMY!”

Now, as amazing as it felt to give voice to the under-appreciated mom in this house, my declaration may have been a tad self-serving. Was this pronouncement delivered at a volume that I was sure my husband would hear? Yes. Was I navel-gazing a bit too much and feeling extra sorry for myself? Absolutely. Should I maybe think about all those less fortunate people out there that don’t even HAVE birthdays? Probably.

But, you know what? When you are the orchestrator of all celebrations, the baker of all cakes, the wrapper of all presents, the writer of all sentiments, who picks up the torch when it’s your big day?

DSC_3244

For many many years, Bob and I had an actual spoken agreement to not purchase birthday presents for one another. We came to this understanding after many, many years of being disappointed by our abysmal ability to pick anything the other person would find remotely decent as a gift.

Bob would inevitably buy me something that was easy and comfortable for him to shop for. It would usually be running shoes or work-out gear since that’s what he knows. I, in turn, would buy him something for the house, which is what I love to shop for, packaged up as something he would enjoy, too. I think we acquired quite a few of our framed pictures this way. And, maybe a throw pillow and blanket or two.

So, in lieu of presenting each other with gifts, we had a lot of freedom to buy what we wanted to buy throughout the year. If he wanted a fancy bike accessory or I wanted to buy a new set of dishes, we just did. Cumulatively, it amounted to lots of treats. Just treats we selected ourselves exactly when we wanted them. No waiting for necessarily important days!

But, somehow, this effort at not gifting anything turned into not celebrating at all. With each passing year, the effort level dropped dramatically. What began as a way to avoid grave disappointment, in the end, was creating even more.

Which, culminated in last year’s epic birthday fail wherein Bob helped ring in my big day by plopping down on the sofa while I was drinking coffee, looking at me accusatorially and saying, “So. You’re 37.” Like I had just caught a disease. No card. No well wishes. No cake. No nothing.

I think we officially abandoned the No Present Rule a short time later.

IMG_1237

This past weekend, Bob made amends for last year’s catastrophe by baking me a cake. So, there was cake (my favorite kind), cards (one from him AND one from the kids/EXTRA POINTS), a small window of time where I was in no way responsible for a small being (doesn’t happen often) and a super thoughtful gift card to Pottery Barn (evidence that Lessons Were Learned during our gift-free experiment). I think it’s safe to assume he heard the rant I delivered to Charlie.

We’re not always going to get it right. (And, I’m talking about Bob here. Not me. Just to clarify.) But, I’m pretty sure everyone likes to be celebrated. Even if just in some small way. And now, the pressure is on since we’re just two short months away from Christmas!