The leaves are falling. Every latte in town is pumpkin infused. The seasonal section of Target is overflowing with styrofoam gravestones.
Yes, it's that time of year when I pen my annual diatribe against Halloween -- historically, my least-favorite holiday.
I can't stand the pop-up stores that take over empty retail space in order to sell faux sawed-off arms and bloody leg stumps. I worry that one of these days I will lose a real limb, or at least a finger, while attempting to carve a jack-o-lantern that only the squirrels will enjoy. And I certainly don't relish being the loser who, year in and year out, shows up to the neighborhood adult costume party sans disguise. But I relish the idea of dressing up as a sexy public servant or feline -- the only costumes that seem available to female grown ups -- even less.
The costume stress I harbor, though, is nothing compared to the angst kids feel when deciding on what to go as on Halloween. My 11-year-old is fairly set on being a Pink Lady from Grease, but she's vacillating between Rizzo and Frenchy. Which, of course, she reminds me, require vastly different wig choices.
I haven't had the heart to tell her that hair color is just the beginning of her "try to look like a gal from the Eisenhower era" issues. We have no pink jackets or anything even vaguely resembling a poodle skirt in the house. And I'm pretty sure no one manufactures saddle shoes anymore. Unfortunately, when it comes to retro dressing, I think the '80s are the new '50s.
But instead of complaining, this year I'm going to attempt to channel my inner Norman Vincent Peale and embrace the "Power of Positive Thinking." Because when it comes right down to it, this holiday really does have quite a lot going for it.
For example, in my spiritual circles at least, Halloween doesn't require a religious service. And when you live in an interfaith home like mine, this is a very big celebration selling point. No special prayers to learn beyond the chant of "trick or treat." No fasting, giving up of anything or sermons involved. Yes, I think I could learn to really appreciate a "holiday" that is light on the "holy" day.
Next up, it's not a day that requires I do much in the cooking department. Probably no one has ever been asked to go to a Halloween cookie exchange. Or rustle up a menu for a gourmet Halloween dinner. As a matter of fact, the only Halloween food anyone really cares about is candy. STOREBOUGHT CANDY. You can't burn, char or leave a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup half raw. Hallelujah.
And there's really no need, if you're me, to spend money on expensive decorations. I've got all the cobwebs and insect infestations any macabre Martha Stewart could desire going all year long at my place.
This year I will also try to ease up some of my previous costume concerns. Sure, the world is rife with inappropriate dress up choices for our kids; there is no parent out there that is keen on his or her child dressing like a pint-sized prostitute, even for one night.
But come on, if my daughter ends up trick or treating as Rizzo -- a high school student who drinks, smokes and thinks she's she might be pregnant -- it's unlikely that any of it would rub off in real life. I don't think costume choices are a particularly good barometer of future behavior. Embarrassing but true, I was a stereotypical "sexy" French maid for Halloween more than once in college. But I still can't speak French. Or clean the house very well (see above). /
Yes, this year I will try to get in the spirit of Halloween. Maybe I'll even go in costume to the neighborhood party. But I have no idea where I put that French maid costume. I'll need to check under the cobwebs. Or maybe I should come up with some way to be a "sexy" Norman Vincent Peale.comments powered by Disqus
I have just returned from a whirlwind, five-day, four-city college tour with my son. You know those "101 Things to Know Before Visiting Disney World" guidebooks that experienced theme park travelers have written to help the uninitiated? I think I am now officially seasoned enough in information sessions and campus tours to give some serious thought to penning a similar "insiders guide" for the junior-year parent.
This past week, against both my will and better judgement, I accompanied 50 or so middle school kids to the Future Problem Solvers Wisconsin State Bowl, a popular academic and skit-writing competition.
It may be a bigger waste of breath than electricity to ask my kids to turn off the lights when they leave a room. If I've nagged them once, I've nagged them a thousand times. No, I've never noticed anything amiss with their fingers. But it appears they are physically incapable of flipping a switch to the "off" position.
I want to say thank you to the Board of Education for allowing Maia to return to class, unquestionably the place she belongs, as well as to thank them for adopting the new policies. But just as importantly, I also want to thank Maia and her family for their willingness to come forward with their story.
Some clever-clogs is playing Rachmaninoff on the piano at a party, and there it is again, that oft-heard adult lament of lost opportunity from a dejected onlooker: "I wish I could play. I wish my parents hadn't let me quit music lessons. I was just a kid -- how was I to know?" It's a reasonable complaint.
If you're checking out summer camps for your child, there are many issues -- some obvious, some less so -- to keep in mind. Here's a list to keep handy when you contact camps and camp directors, looking for the perfect spot for your kids to have fun, relax, and learn this summer.
I know, in the grand scheme of things, that my kid issues, when it comes to dining out, absolutely pale in comparison to those of parents whose kids have special needs. Many kids, especially those who are on the autism spectrum, are disturbed by changes in their routine, or anxious around noisy places. They may not be able tolerate waiting for a table or standing in line. So unfortunately, many of these families just avoid eating out at restaurants altogether.
It's weird to admit this, especially in a city surrounded by as much outdoor beauty as Madison. But frankly, I'm just not that into nature. I'm more of an indoor kind of gal. Give me an afternoon at the Chazen or the Wisconsin Historical Museum over the Arboretum or Olbrich Gardens any day.
Lavish costumes, gorgeous sets, a full orchestra and a concession stand where nothing cost more than two bucks and you have a pitch perfect experience at the theater. Oh, and did I mention the ticket prices were just $10 dollars apiece? One could afford to take the whole family for a live theater experience for less than an evening at the Lego movie would cost including popcorn.
I think the first time in recent years that I've felt a real sense of shame, as both a parent and community member, was last Tuesday evening as I sat in a crowded elementary school LMC to listen to Ken Taylor, executive director of the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, and his colleague, Torry Wynn, present key findings from the 2013 Race to Equity report to our PTO group.
It's Wednesday morning at Allis Elementary School on Madison's east side, and 16 third-graders -- 10 boys and six girls -- enter into an open-space classroom in typical wiggly, giggly style. Some are making goofy faces at one another, some are bouncing around hand-in-hand with friends, and others are just trying to stay out of the whirling-dervish path of activity.
Of the 789 poorly-composed, way-too-dark and out-of-focus photos currently living on my iPhone, I can count on two hands the number that show my kids and me together. And my husband is in probably no more than three or four of those.
Something kind of magical has happened these past two weeks during the Sochi Olympics. There is no question, debate or disagreement on what will be watched on television once all homework is done. Everyone in the family makes time to sit down together to watch an hour of so of the primetime televised games.
Truth be told, though, this month I'm feeling a bit cinematically fried. In some ways, I already feel like I've spent the last week or so at a film festival. A festival specializing in minute-long glimpses of ordinary lives all ending with credits that feature the ubiquitous blue thumbs-up. Yes, it's been the February of the Facebook movie.
Just last week, on precisely the same day the Momastery post was getting over a million well-deserved views, Madison mom Suzanne Buchko was telling a similar story. Not on a blog but instead in the confines of the modestly circulated Franklin-Randall Elementary School weekly newsletter.
Late last month, the Madison Metropolitan School District adopted a five-year, $27.7 million technology plan calling for all district students, including those in the primary grades, to have significantly increased access to their very own tablet or notebook computer by 2019. Some parents, as well as education professionals, questioned whether elementary-aged kids, especially kindergarteners who aren't even able to read or write yet, will gain much benefit from introducing yet another screen into their lives.
This past Monday, had winter's unrelenting weather allowed, Middleton Cross Plains School District teacher Andrew Harris would have once again been at the helm of a classroom. After nearly four years of fighting his dismissal from Glacier Creek Middle School for viewing and passing on sexually explicit material on district computers, MCPSD has been legally forced to reinstate Herris, this time as a seventh-grade science teacher at Kromrey Middle School.
In a study published last week by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics have found that the 16 and Pregnant series may have played a significant role in the recent decrease in U.S. teen pregnancies.
In our house, sad but true, we've rarely spent the Martin Luther King holiday discussing race, social justice or the power of non-violent civil disobedience. Instead, the third Monday in January has historically been treated as just another day off school, just another long weekend. And it's been a missed opportunity.
It's not something that happens very often, but last Friday, as news of the impending arctic cold snap reached our house, my kids were rooting for Governor Scott Walker. They were rooting for him to take Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton's lead and cancel school throughout the state. They couldn't care less if he had the authority to do such a thing -- if he called off school, he'd be their hero.