Tag Archives: Halloween

Judgey Cakes and Baby Angst

Upon finding out that Halloween is soon and she could eat all the chocolate she wants, my Viking baby Bridget made this face:


Because she loves spooky stuff (Jack Skellington is her personal hero) and really, really likes chocolate.

This was welcome news, because Bridget has been on a real tear lately. Having lots of baby angst about baby issues, I guess.

Just the other day, she was stomping around the house, grumbling under her breath like a crotchety old man: “Pshh… NO Chuck E. Cheese. NO chocolate cake. Brontë wants SPACE! Cat won’t TALK to me…”

And it’s been tough for me not to laugh at these disgruntled toddler ravings. I just don’t feel right about openly mocking her pain. Especially because cats-not-talking has been a real sore point.

Withholding Cats

Like on Wednesday afternoon, when she was lying next to me, sucking her thumb, watching My Little Pony. Her enormous cat Raj jumps on the couch and plops down on her chest, his nose three inches from her face…

She pets him with her free hand for a second before knotting up her eyebrows in an angry, cartoon “V.”

I figured it was because she couldn’t breathe with a thirty-pound stripey cat cutting off her air supply, but she hadn’t flinched. She just kept staring him down, harder and harder, until she finally pops her thumb out of her mouth and yells, “Raj, why you NOT TALK!?”

(That’s got to be frustrating. All the cartoon cats talk on TV, like pretty much every other animal, and she’s known Raj for three whole years…  yet he refuses to say a single word.)

Judgey Desserts

Plus, her desserts have been judging her. We were eating some leftover chocolate cake for breakfast yesterday (because that’s the kind of responsible mother I am) when Bridget points out two chocolate chips on her slice.

Bridget: Look, mama… eyes!

Me (not quite seeing it): Oh yeah? Cake eyes?

She starts to take another bite before violently throwing the cake back on her plate.


Fighting the Establishment

I know waaaaay too much about this pony.

And lately, Bridget has been sassing her big sister too.

I was driving Brontë home from Kindergarten when Bridget kept going on and on, from the backseat, about “Tie-Back-Oh.”

What? I finally asked: “What is Tie-Back-O?”

Brontë explained: “She means ‘Twilight Sparkle,’ mommy.”

(OH. One of the My Little Ponies. The purple one who likes to read and hangs around with that dinosaur, Spike. Any current parent of toddler girls will know exactly who I mean.)

Then, Brontë set about fixing her baby sister’s pony-naming issue. It makes sense, because she wouldn’t want her sister to go embarrassing herself in serious toddler discussions about current issues.

So, she applied some of her Kindergarten teacher’s language techniques:

Clapping her hands on each syllable, Brontë said, “It’s TWI (clap)-  LIGHT (clap)-  SPAR (clap)- KLE (clap)!”


“Okay let’s try again, Bridget. Twi—Light–SPAR–KLE! Now, YOU!”

And Bridget said, “Okay: PEE… PEE… POO… POO!”

“NO!” Brontë screamed…  as Bridget convulsed in giggles.

(I have to wonder if firstborn children more readily understand the parental perspective because they get all that baby sibling sass when trying to be helpful.)

So… with her breakfast silently judging her, her cat giving her the silent treatment, and her big sister talking down to her with her fancy-schmancy college techniques, Bridget is truly looking forward to the annual chocolate-binging fest.












The 7 Deadly Holidays

Last week, a friend of mine wished everyone on Facebook a happy Thanksgiving by calling it the “eat whatever you want without feeling guilty” holiday.

She’s right, of course. Officially, Thanksgiving is about being grateful, but we all know the main focus is usually on making a ridiculous amount of food then trying to eat as much as possible.

It’s gluttony, really. One of the seven deadly sins.

Not that I’m against it. Giving into temptation every once in a while helps us build up enough willpower to truly deprive ourselves.

It’s an old idea. The Catholics have a long tradition of  letting loose during the Carnival festive season right before buckling down into all the self-denial of Lent.

Maybe they’re onto something… America may not have a Carnival festival per se, but we DO have 7 major holidays, which just happens to be the same number as the official deadly sins.


1- Thanksgiving: Gluttony

ckthanksgicing.jpgOfficial purpose: Being grateful for what you already have

I already  covered this one… On Thanksgiving, we’re all supposed to prepare a massive feast involving turkey, cheese-covered green beans, and a variety of seasonal gourds.

We then invite our families over to collectively lay siege to this food pile, not stopping until everyone is sleepy and no one can buckle their pants.

That’s when we break out the pumpkin pie…

2- Halloween: Lust

halloween-socialismOfficial purpose: Making yourself look unappetizing

Traditionally, Halloween is about kids dressing up in scary costumes and going from house to house,collecting candy. So maybe, for kids,  Halloween is about gluttony. They weren’t all that jazzed about eating turkey, after all.

But for adults, it’s the holiday where good taste fashion rules fly out the window. Naughty nurses, naughty witches, and naughty tavern wenches are EVERYWHERE.

It’s the one time of year women feel free to channel their inner dominatrix, parading around in glorified bikinis, weapons, and heavy eyeliner. Ironically enough, this all happens when it’s super cold outside.

3- Christmas: Greed


Official purpose: Caring about everyone else

Sure, Christmas is about the birth of our savior, trees with pretty lights, traditional songs and family togetherness. It’s lovely.

But who are we kidding? For kids, it’s all about the presents. They dream up wish lists for months, write letters to Santa, and wake up at the crack of dawn on Christmas, hungry to tear into that sweet new pile of toys.

And we parents absolutely break ourselves to make that possible.

4-New Year’s Eve: Sloth

best-funny-new-years-resolutions-2015-memes-6Official purpose: Welcoming the challenges of a whole ‘nother year

NYE is basically a grownup’s holiday that mostly involves going somewhere to sit around and drink until the clock strikes midnight and everyone kisses each other.

I’m gonna argue NYE is all about sloth, because it’s not only the holiday that involves the least work (unless you’re throwing a giant party), but also the one where everyone expects to magically improve their lives.

Yeah, we just cheer for the brand new year, thinking this new year will automatically make great things happen without us having to do anything. Okay, maybe we throw out a New Year’s resolution or two, but we definitely won’t be starting them until tomorrow.

5- Valentine’s Day: Envy

its-valentines-day-batman.pngOfficial purpose: Being grateful for your significant other

This is the holiday where some lucky women receive enormous bouquets of roses at work, in front of all their jealous coworkers, while others wonder why their deadbeat boyfriends/husbands never send them roses at work. Because apparently that guy has gotten a little too comfortable and it’s probably just a matter of time before he stops even bothering to sniff the armpits of his shirts before getting dressed to go out.

This is the day when people in seasoned relationships get to envy the emotional rollercoaster of fresh new relationships, and people in new relationships get to be disappointed when a bunch of dramatic gestures don’t end up leading to an incredibly romantic proposal.

Even worse, single people have to sit around being single while the whole world celebrates being in love. Hearts, chocolates, and chocolates in heart-shaped boxes… it’s the schmoopiest, most in-your-face kind of romantic comedy love propaganda on the planet, designed to remind anyone single just how tragic it is to be alone.

Of course, all those bells and whistles put a lot of pressure on couples. What if you’re exhausted and all you really feel like doing is ordering in a pizza and watching Netflix? This wouldn’t be a problem if you were single. Single people have nothing to prove and can do whatever they want. Lucky bastards…

6- Independence Day: Wrath

4th-july-jokeOfficial purpose: Patriotism

It’s tempting to say the 4th of July is all about Pride, because we Americans are feeling pretty smug about how awesome our country is and how smart we were to hide behind rocks while the British Redcoats lined up with giant X’s on their chest.

But I’m going to go with Wrath instead.

Why? Because the one thing that distinguishes Independence Day is our collective need to watch fireworks.  (Maybe we set them off ourselves, or maybe we go watch a professional show… it depends on how your city ordinances deal with handling explosives).

And while fireworks are beautiful, their thundering noises, flashing lights, and thrilling potential danger have been commemorating the weapons of war since 1777.

That’s right, everyone casually eats watermelon and well-barbecued meats while fondly remembering how we really decimated the British with our musket fire and cannon balls. Cause that’s what we ‘Muricans do to folks who TAX US WITHOUT LETTING US REPRESENT.

You wanna TAX our tea?? Well, we’re gonna THROW IT INTO THE WATER and start DRINKING COFFEE INSTEAD.

You like them apples, England?  How about you guys waltz into your nearest Starbucks, sip some lattes and think about what you did…

7- Easter: Pride

easter.jpgOfficial purpose: Celebrating the resurrection

Admittedly, saying Easter is all about the deadly sin of pride may be a hard sell. But I’ve only got one holiday and one deadly sin left, so I plan to plan to rationalize that square peg into this round hole until my theory completely fits.

So… what about the fact we think we know what we’re doing, even though we’re all  celebrating Christ’s resurrection with a bunch of bunny rabbits and colorful eggs?

Does that seem reasonable to you? That a giant rabbit, who hides baskets of chocolate from children, should be a fitting symbol of our messiah’s return from the dead?

Of course. Because we all know what we’re doing here. Why shouldn’t we call this holiday “Easter,” which comes from the Teutonic fertility goddess “Eostre,” which we celebrate in the Spring with a bunch of fertility symbols, like eggs and rabbits?

Nothing weird about that.

And while we’re on the subject of pride, how about the way we celebrate the holiday by hiding baskets and eggs from little kids. Kids have trouble finding them even when we put them in really obvious places, which makes us feel pretty smart.

Easter, the day we get to feel like geniuses by outwitting a pack of tiny children.

So, am I completely off the mark here? Because I’m basically saying that while we set up these holidays to celebrate the greatest of human virtues, we kind of end up reveling in the worst.

Not that it’s a bad thing. Maybe we need these “safe,” official spaces to get out all our selfishness. Maybe it makes us better people for the rest of the year.

Or maybe we’re inventing new holidays to do it better. I mean, what the heck is Black Friday about, if not our willingness to trample our countrymen to get our hands on a bigger TV?

UPDATE: After reading this post, my blogging buddy Amanda at Just in Queso wrote a hilarious post where she assigned the 7 deadly sins to characters on the show Friends. You should check it out: Sins and Friends.

(And read her other stuff too. It’s really good!)










Brontë Finds Out Her Mom is a Pumpkin-Slayer

My four-year-old daughter is currently in love with all things dark and creepy. She is all about Scooby Doo mysteries, haunted houses, and Tim Burton cartoons.

She calls them “smooky,” which I assume is a toddler variant on the word “spooky.” Maybe because spooky things seem to involve a lot of dry ice and fake smoke. I don’t know.

What I find particularly interesting about Brontë’s dark obsessions of late is how they represent such a complete turnaround from last year. She used to be terrified of sleeping with the lights out and no amount of glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars or night lights seemed to help.

Baby Sister slays a dragon

And the Halloween before last was a complete bust. I’d hoped her love of dressing up and the first candy exchange would move her past all the dancing skeletons and deranged jack-o-lanterns, but it was a disaster…


She yelled in abject terror when our first neighbor opened the door and ran screaming with both arms in the air across the second neighbor’s yard, dumping her candy bowl during her mad escape attempt. Halloween was over.

But a conversation this past October unexpectedly turned everything around. It went something like this…

Me: We are going to the pumpkin farm to get ready for Halloween. Halloween is fun! You get to dress up and go trick-or-treating. People give you candy.

Brontë: I no like Halloween. It’s scary.

Me: There are scary decorations, but it’s all pretend. You get to dress up in a costume!

Brontë: I no like pumpkins. Pumpkins are really scary.

Me: Don’t be scared! We are going to go to a pumpkin farm and you can pick out whatever pumpkin you like. Then we are going to go home and carve it and make pumpkin pie, then carve a face and make a jack-o-lantern. It’s okay…

At this, Brontë froze. Her eyes grew enormous while she pondered what I had just said.

She swiveled around and looked me straight in the eye as a wide smile grew on her face.

“I NOT SCARED OF PUMPKINS!” she shouted. “My momma is gonna CUT A PUMPKIN with a KNIFE and EAT IT!”

I blinked at her and nodded.

She began walking again, muttering, “My momma CUTS pumpkins and EATS them… we gonna get a pumpkin and CUT IT!”

I followed, finding her revelation both comforting and disturbing. There was an unmistakable twinkle in her eye every time she talked about CUTTING the pumpkins… with a KNIFE.

Hmm. I suppose she had spent the first few years of her life terrified of monsters and the dark. Maybe it wasn’t so weird to find the idea of powerful knife-wielding mom somewhat comforting.

Brontë lived in a primitive realm crowded with dragons and nightmares, one that logically required a mother as protective as she was nurturing.

Because what good is a delicate mother who lets you be kidnapped by errant, maniacal gourds? Okay Brontë, we’ll slay that pumpkin together…

We went to the pumpkin farm, where Brontë took great pains to select the perfect pumpkin. She circled the field over and over until finally pointing: “This one!”

We took it home and carved it up. She demanded a “happy pumpkin,” so I made a smiley face with triangle eyes before putting a candle inside and setting the grisly trophy on the doorstep as a warning to all would-be menacing pumpkins.

Brontë followed me everywhere, watching the ritualized pumpkin dispatch. When the pumpkin pie had cooled, I served her a triangle which she bit into with deep satisfaction.

Then she was ready for Halloween.

She donned her pirate costume, grabbed her candy bucket in one hand and my hand in the other, and stood up tall. We walked out the front door with dad and baby sister trailing behind.

As she approached the first house, she squeezed my hand harder. “Say ‘trick-or-treat’ and they will give you candy,” I told her as she nodded.

Brontë squeezes my hand while preparing for Pumpkin Combat

We rang the bell. Brontë squeezed my fingers.


The door opened and we stood for a moment before Brontë whispered “Trick or treat.”

Our neighbor smiled before dropping some miniature Snickers into Brontë’s and her sister’s bowl. We said thank you and walked away.

Brontë’s grip loosened as she smiled triumphantly. Each house was easier. The kids’ candy bowls were overflowing by the time we returned home.

They spent the night watching spooky cartoons while eating themselves sick on chocolate. Halloween wasn’t so bad, after all. You put up pretend spooky monsters and then strangers give you free candy while talking about how adorable you are.

“Next Halloween,” Brontë told me, “I want a mean pumpkin. And a scared pumpkin.”

And the funny thing is, Brontë isn’t afraid of the dark anymore.

Or scary monsters, or haunted houses, or spooky cartoons. She no longer saw any reason to feel threatened after conquering the Grand Tournament of Official Scariness known as “Halloween.”

Brontë didn’t even mind mean pumpkins hanging around the house. Because what pumpkin in its right mind would mess with the daughter of a pumpkin-slayer?

Brontë looks over her spoils as she reevaluates smookiness


My Daughter Has a Halloween Panic Attack

Pirate queen.
Pirate queen

Children are unpredictable.

As you can see in the photo, my daughter Brontë loves everything about being a Halloween pirate queen. Being a massive fan of dressing up, she jumped right on board the Halloween train as soon as she figured out costumes would be involved.

She’s a fearless and enthusiastic kid. Whenever we’re in public, she screams “HI! WHO ARE YOU?” to every passing stranger (sometimes embarrassing her shy parents) and is disturbingly unafraid of most things. She will grab strange dogs, hurl herself face-first down the tallest slide on the playground, and resents still being too short to ride upside-down roller coasters.

Physical challenges do not intimidate Brontë one bit. Psychological dangers, on the other hand, push her toddler imagination to the brink. She insists on keeping the lights on and the closet doors shut at bedtime. We have tried easing her into a dark bedroom with night lights and glow-in-the-dark ceiling stars, but she shrieks in bloodcurdling terror whenever the door closes. Anything less than stadium lights and welded closets make you monster bait.

Still, her sister and parents were going to be with her as she strolled the neighborhood streets at dusk, collecting candy. Candy is one of her favorite things, and apparently, random strangers were about to fill her Frozen bucket with chocolate whenever they answered the door.  It sounded like an excellent idea.

We were stepping into the quiet streets, hand-in-hand, when Brontë looked around her and realized the world was scary. Demons had invaded the calm, familiar row of houses surrounding our nest. Graves with emerging skeletons had mushroomed up around our neighbor’s rose bushes and witches were menacing the hedges.  Ghosts with glowing eyes hung from doorways. Brontë swiveled in circles, surveying the haunted dangers surrounding her, and dropping to the ground, she threw her head back and screamed.

I grabbed her tight and reminded her it was all pretend. People put up scary decorations on Halloween, but everything is make-believe. Mommy and daddy were with her, nothing could hurt her, and we were going to knock on the door and people would give her loads of candy. It’s fun!

Brontë sobbed for a minute as she considered my offer. I wiped her tears and kept reassuring her as she squeezed my hand and tried to rally for this demonic treasure hunt. A look of determination shot from her toddler eyes and she realized that to obtain said candy, she would have to pass through the witch-laden obstacle course guarding each door.

We began walking up a driveway and Brontë squeezed my hand harder with every step. She pulled back as we passed a dancing skeleton and stepped nervously under a hovering bat. We finally reached the door, knocked, and waited.

The door swung open and Brontë froze. “Trick or treat?” I offered, smiling weakly at our neighbor as I tried to demonstrate how these Halloween negotiations go down. Brontë started visibly shaking before she slowly, tentatively stretched her tiny hand toward the candy bowl. A flash of light sparkled across her arm and when she turned to investigate its source, she found herself face-to-face with a jack-o-lantern.

His menacing triangle eyes glowed with flickering candlelight as his lips curled into fanged pumpkin laughter. Brontë dropped to the ground, hugging her feet, and let out a bloodcurdling scream. Our neighbor’s face fell. She bit her lip as she rushed over to help me reassure Brontë. We told her everything was okay, her shoulders heaving and dropping in full-blown panic. John dropped some candy in the Frozen bucket and we thanked our neighbor while leading Brontë away from the sarcastic pumpkin king.

I tried to give my daughter a pep talk, telling her everything was alright and that the next house would be easier. Brontë squeezed my fingers white then nodded when she was ready to proceed.

We walked past bat lanterns and flat frightened cats to the next doorway light signaling “candy oasis” to wandering children.  Brontë steadied herself as we approached the door. She went rigid, so I squeezed her shoulder reassuringly as I pressed the doorbell. The door swung open and another neighbor emerged with with a giant bowl of goodies. He looked down at Brontë with a welcoming smile.

She looked back at him, threw both her arms straight in the air, and ran away screaming. Dropping her Frozen bucket on the porch, she fled across the lawn and started running back home.

“She’s, umm, a little scared,” I told our neighbor. “Maybe next year?’ He nodded sympathetically.

We found her banging on the front door of our house, shaking with sobs. I picked her up and carried her inside, where we waited until she had calmed down before leaving to visit grandma and the rest of the family at a halloween get-together. Brontë’s cousins took one look at Brontë’s empty Frozen bucket then shook their heads in quiet sympathy. They huddled in a toddler negotiation circle  for a few moments before each contributing a little candy to Brontë’s tragic bucket. It was sweet.

The next morning, John and I hear a knock at the door. Opening it, we found the jack-o-lantern neighbor holding a bag of candy. “I felt so bad for her,” she said as she handed us the candy, “Poor little thing was so scared.”

After thanking her profusely for the kind gesture, John and I walked in a told Brontë the jack-o-lantern brought her some chocolate. “He didn’t mean to scare you like that. He brought you some chocolate to help you feel better.”

Maybe next year will go better. At least Brontë knows that the village is on her side.

Bronte retreats to familiar ground: giving her aunt a princess makeover.
Bronte retreats to familiar ground, giving her aunt a princess makeover.

Halloween Penguins in Baby Class

Penguin Snack Army.
Penguin Snack Army

I’m not usually one to fuss about food presentation. Typically, I just want it to taste good, and that’s usually enough to keep me busy. But when my aunt’s new boyfriend brought a bunch of penguins to a family get-together, I knew I would have to copy it at some point.

They are just so cute.

The right occasion finally arrived when my postpartum exercise class at Herself Moms threw a little Halloween party after class. Since everyone is trying to get in shape, I thought it would be nice to try to include vegetables in my potluck dish.

But even though they are made of just cream cheese, black olives, and carrots, they are amazingly tasty. Their cuteness draws you in, but their deliciousness brings you back for more…

Making them is pretty simple. You just cut a carrot into slices, then cut a little pizza slice out of each carrot slice. You slit a black olive along the side and put cream cheese inside. Then you put the olive on top of one of the carrot slices so the two points look like feet.

Then you lay another black olive on top and put the carrot “pizza slices” in the hole, so it looks like a beak. Pierce the creation vertically with a toothpick to hold the penguin together.

Now, make a bunch of them and line them up so they look like they are all migrating toward the buffet.

These went over well in my class and the rest of the food was also delicious. Someone made Caprese salad skewers with a balsamic vinegar sauce to dribble on top that was amazing.

Plus, everyone dressed their babies up, so it was a very adorable party. I put Bridget in a dragon costume, but there was already another dragon at the party. Apparently she felt threatened, because she crawled over and bit that poser dragon.

Baby dragons gather around a pumpkin. Bridget is on the right.
Baby dragons gather around a pumpkin. Bridget is on the right

Maybe she just really liked the idea of being a dragon and got carried away.

Bridget gets into character.
Bridget gets into character