Halloween: Is it good for the children?

Resolved: The proliferation of nightmarish Halloween yard displays is damaging and antisocial and should be strictly regulated by city ordinances.

I’ve always been a “Dear Abby” reader, largely because it’s fascinating to read the wildly varying extremes of the human condition that people write in about. Yesterday’s “Dear Abby” column included a letter from a mom whose young child was terrified by the annual repulsive display in the yard of a next door neighbor – skeletons, “dead” bodies, bloody knives…I’m sure you’ve seen it. We have more and more of them in our neighborhood every year.

A summary of “Abby’s” reply to the writer : “You can’t protect your child forever. Just tell him it’s all meant in the spirit of fun and it isn’t real.”

I'm not a huge fan of pumpkin carving personally , but at least this jack -o'-lantern is inoffensive.

I’m not a huge fan of pumpkin carving personally – too messy for my tastes – but at least this jack -o’-lantern is inoffensive.

Obviously “Abby” has never had or known a child with a sensitive nature. You can’t just give a terrified child a tired platitude and call it good.

I have never been a molly-coddling parent. But I know my children well, and I have always believed it’s my job to recognize their deep needs and respond to them appropriately. We have one child who was (and honestly, still is) bone-deep terrified of the type of Halloween displays in question. Dismissive words from me along the lines of “it’s just a joke, get over it” would simply have told her that her needs are not important to me.

Then, too, childhood education and development have been an important part of my life’s work. I am absolutely convinced that, as a community, we must accept the responsibility to monitor anything we allow children to ingest – from food to video games to television ads to horrific yard displays. Don’t try to give me any crappy arguments against a “nanny state.” If we are to create a healthy, productive society, we must fight for the best for our youngest members. If that means regulating businesses, neighbors, and parents who have hideously bad judgement when it comes to the way they affect children’s healthy development, then so be it.

Grisly Halloween yard displays are a symptom of that kind of hideously bad judgement, as are violent video games, worship of posturing, macho sports figures, and ratings creep in movies. When our children are fed that kind of diet, how can we be surprised when they exhibit ugly, violent, or antisocial behavior?

It’s become almost cliche, but the question “Is it good for the children?” should be the yardstick by which we measure anything out there that our children might consume.

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Under Pressure

imageThis has been me for most of the past week. I love autumn, but this year my head does not love the allergens. I think my sinuses are currently about the size of the Hindenburg, and crashing in a terrifying ball of flames is a distinct possibility.

My doc told me years ago I need to keep the windows and doors of our house shut during allergy season. So my choices are a faster onset of Seasonal Affective Disorder in the fall due to being cooped up and cut off from the rest of the word OR attack of the killer allergens.

I’m keeping the Allegra, Flonase, and Naproxin close at hand.

photo credit: aldoaldoz via photopin cc

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I’m about to use a word I hate…

Two of my pet peeve words:
•”Jazzed” – As in “I’m really jazzed that the Royals are in the World Series.”
•”Pop” – As in “The new color on the front door really makes it pop.”

Barf. Gag. Hack.

And yet, this weekend I’m doing a project that does, indeed, make our front door “pop.”

It’s my favorite kind of project: Easy, not too messy, and bearing almost immediate results.

imageOne coat yesterday and a second today, and our front door is a radical new statement on the front of our house. I wanted to go with a deep plum but realized that would seriously fight with the black and red decor in the living room, onto which our front door opens.

So instead our door is now the same color as our Little Free Library.

It really pops.


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The continuing saga of our Little Free Library

In the week and a half since the LFL went up, we’ve observed a number of happenings – some exciting:

That white thing that appears to be stuck to the left side of the LFL is actually the downspout on the front of the house. Interesting.

That white thing that appears to be stuck to the left side of the LFL is actually the downspout on the front of the house. Interesting.

•several people taking books to read
•a number of people stopping to look inside and see how it works
•quite a few people slowing down and glancing, but going no further. This I truly can’t fathom. How can you walk by something that cute and interesting that contains BOOKS THAT ARE FREE FOR THE TAKING and not even check it out? It takes all kinds.
•a middle school girl stopping on her way home to tell me she really likes that we put the LFL out. How sweet!

…and one not-so-exciting:
Last Friday after the hoards of middle school boys walked past on the way home, our neighbor knocked on the door, holding the small journal I’d placed in the LFL where people can share their thoughts about it, suggestions for books, etc.
The first two pages of the journal were decorated with drawings of a certain part of the male anatomy that can in no way be considered aesthetically pleasing. Thank goodness our neighbor discovered it quickly and brought it in. That journal is no longer in our LFL.

I spent a day or so fuming, feeling violated, concocting conversations in my head. If I had these kids alone in a room, what would I say to them (in my best and most intimidating teacher voice) that could possibly make them understand the consequences of their thoughtless and antisocial action?

And then I moved on. Because a couple of days ago, for the first time, someone actually BROUGHT BOOKS TO SHARE!!! New books in our LFL, not placed there by me. That means someone knows about it, cares about it, and wants to be part of it.

And that is what it’s been about all along.

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Momentary misconception


Just now as I was out driving, I got behind a van bearing this logo. After my mind raced through a) what crafts the blind people are doing, b) why blind people need a van for crafting, and c) how nice it is that blind people have such a well-organized support network for their crafting, the penny finally dropped.

Maybe it’s time for a nap.

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Go Royals!

medium_2400058197The metro area we live in has been swept up in World Series fever for the last week. I have to admit that this time around I’m a fair weather friend, but my roots as a Royals supporter do actually go way back.

I have pretty vivid memories of the Royals’ last race for the championship, back in 1985. I’d been following the Royals for years. In ’85 I was finishing up my last semester of college coursework before student teaching, preparing for my wedding in just over a month, and was glued to the TV in the lounge of my dorm with every other baseball fan on our floor, all the way through Game Seven.

I can still remember the names of my favorite players from that ’85 team – Bret Saberhagen, Dan Quisenberry, Steve Balboni, Dennis Leonard, Onix Concepcion, Mark Gubicza, Frank White, Willie Wilson, and of course George Brett.

When our kids were little, we took them to plenty of Royals games. That championship year was the high point for our hometown team, and things went downhill from there. So tickets were cheap, and it was a fun family outing.

But the older I’ve gotten (though I don’t feel like I’m getting older), the less interest I’ve had in professional sports. A long-time football fan, I lost all interest after I had a nasty concussion and all the news about players and CTE started coming out. I don’t like the football culture. Baseball is rather more civilized, but I still don’t get the need to live or die by your team, to spend literally a couple of thousand dollars to take your family to the big game.

I will say, though, I enjoyed watching last night’s Game Two. A five-run inning by your home team is pretty exciting. And best of all, baseball is so slow-paced I can keep my eyes on my knitting without missing anything.

I guess you could call me a pretty low-key fan. Looking forward to Friday night’s Game Three.


photo credit: jeffisageek via photopin cc


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Good morning text

Normally I would say that regularly checking my phone when I first wake up in the morning falls somewhat short of being a positive habit. But for the last couple of days I’ve been greeted by lovely texts that came in while I was sleeping.

imageYesterday morning I woke up to an invitation to use a friend’s extra ticket to the local dinner theater. Perfect timing – our daughter is out late every Tuesday evening and I had no dinner plans. So from the moment I opened my eyes I had something fun to look forward to yesterday. An added bonus was the “texting fail” response I got from my friend. I’m not sure what she was meaning to say back to my “sure, I’d love to go!” answer, but what I got from her made my day start with a laugh.

Then this morning the first glance at my phone revealed a late-night text from our boy. He wanted to let me know he had a date last night with a really great girl named Charlie (ironic considering our recent viewing of “Top Gun”) who he met at the theater box office at his university. The fact that he had a date wasn’t what made me so happy, of course. The joy came in the fact that he wanted to share the news with me.

Hooray for technology and questionable usage habits.

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Families and “boomerang kids” – not necessarily a bad thing.

An article titled “Some Millennials – And Their Parents – Are Slow To Cut The Cord” appeared on my Facebook feed today. And there was much rejoicing, at least in this mom’s world. In this piece, the point is made that there can be great advantages when young people move back to the family home early in their adulthood.

I have long argued that if a parent/child relationship is positive and healthy (as in – NOT governed by helicopter parenting), it can be a really good thing for young adults – or “emerging adults” as they’re called in the article – to maintain closeness and even move back home during that emerging adult phase.

The overwhelming narrative in our society has been griping about “boomerang kids” who return home after college and mooch off their parents. Certainly that situation could be miserable if relationships are negative or if the kid returning home is a burden/not contributing at all to the household.

Our house will always be big enough for our whole family.

Our house will always be big enough for our whole family.

But I think there’s a perfectly healthy and quite happy alternative, and I’m finding that this alternative is probably what’s happening in my own household. We have one daughter who chose to live at home while going to college, for a number of reasons. She and I just had a very open and productive conversation just a few days ago that went something like this:

Daughter: I feel like I should be looking into how and when to start paying off my student loans.

Me: You know you don’t have to worry about that until after you graduate.

Daughter: Yes, but if I don’t get a full time job right away, what if I can’t manage to start paying it off?

Me: You know, you don’t have to be all on your own after you graduate. Any time you’re ready to move into your own place we’ll support you 100%, but you should know you are under no pressure to leave home. You are an integral part of our lives and we’ll be happy with whatever you decide. Best case scenario in my book is that you get a full-time job with health insurance right out of college. You stay here until you’re ready to go, pay a little rent, and everyone’s happy. I love having you around, and I’m in no hurry to get rid of you. On the other hand, we don’t want you to feel like you have to stay at home to “take care of us” or whatever.

Daughter (with a deep sigh of relief): I’m glad. Because so far I don’t have any interest in moving away from home.

Our family is a mutual support system. We all genuinely like each other and have a pretty high tolerance for each others’ odd personality quirks. I don’t think there’s anything unnatural about that, and I’m thankful to have the situation we have. I know other parents are sorely tested, and I know we’re very lucky. Honestly, I think there’s a pretty good chance our son will end up back home too a few years down the line while he’s working on his master’s degree. We’ve lived in a full house before and there’s no reason we can’t do it again…with a few ground rules from the outset.

And so, once again, National Public Radio has blown the conversation wide open and given me food for thought.


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Slightly subversive humor

silly worksheetSo in the area of our church where I work and hang out, and where we have all our preschool-6th grade Sunday School classes, we have a copy machine room that’s open to any teachers and helpers who need copies for their classes. Last week I found this on the counter top next to the copy machine – don’t know who left it or what class** it’s for. Jesus’ healings are not actually a topic that any of our classes are currently doing. In case the writing is too small: The directions were to go around the circle of letters and find words that indicate health issues Jesus healed. The word “dead” in the puzzle immediately jumped out at me and I couldn’t help but write in a comment.

No telling whether anyone else saw my comment, but I certainly cracked myself up.


**For the record, worksheets are not our typical mode of teaching. We mostly teach our kids through hands-on activities like cooking, drama, games, science, and art.


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First car

When the car Middle Sister has been driving crapped out last week, it came as no surprise. We bought the ’99 Cougar for Oldest seven years ago at the end of her junior year in high school, and it’s been the “teen car” ever since. We knew it was on borrowed time, and last Tuesday that time expired.

Because The Husband can fix ANYTHING (and no auto repair garage lives up to his standard), we keep our cars for an average of 12 years. Buying a car is a huge event around here. Luckily The Husband had a longer than usual break from work this past weekend, and we were able to complete the search and transaction for Middle Sister’s first car.

Here she is, with her sweet P.T. Cruiser. It fits her perfectly.

Here she is, with her sweet P.T. Cruiser. It fits her perfectly.

As she signed the title paperwork on Saturday, I recalled signing a title for the first car that actually belonged to me – a nearly new Thunderbird. And then I had a shock as I realized that event took place when I was only a year older than our daughter is now, and I was MARRIED, for Pete’s sake! The thought of either of our daughters being married at their ages (21 and 24) requires a huge stretch of the imagination. I’m not sure if that’s a function of the shift in culture over a generation, or simply the drive and character they both possess – for both of them education is a strong priority, and their greatest life goals involve their careers and personal development. Whatever it is, I think it’s a good thing. Not that my marriage at age 21 was a bad thing, but I feel our girls are making good decisions.

As a parent, I couldn’t ask for much more.


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