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 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.
Late last semester, as students were packing up their backpacks one final time before winter break, Middleton High School principal Denise Herrmann and assistant principal Lisa Jondle were co-authoring a note home to parents informing them of a widespread cheating scandal involving nearly 250 calculus students at the school.
Breathe in, breathe out. Have you ever been in the heat of a parenting moment with these words ringing through your head? Then you're on the right path toward mindful parenting.
The week between Christmas and New Year's is famous for all sorts of things. Malls are packed with folks exchanging those holiday sweaters that don't fit just right. It's the week those same folks pledge to never again eat another frosted sugar cookie or candy cane (hence the sweater issues). It's also the week the media saturates the public with dozens of "Best of Year" lists.
This will not (although it could) be a treatise on the value of "alone time" for a healthy marriage, though. Nor will it be an ode to how nice it was for me to have a few days off from lunch-packing, carpool-driving and homework-nagging.
For those of you who haven't yet seen it, the eight-week-long transit campaign, placed both inside and on the outside of buses, features a photo of an orange tabby with a stainless steel bar drilled into its head accompanied by the line "I am not lab equipment. End UW cat experiments!" Just as PETA hopes, the image is shocking and demands an immediate response.
If I had my druthers, I'd sit out the entire shopping week that follows Thanksgiving. Black Friday, for starters, has corrupted the fine art of bargain shopping and turned it into a gladiator sport. There is no percentage off that is worth losing sleep, or even worse an eye, over. Especially if you have kids in tow.
When you shop for toys, there is always the conflict between what you think is appropriate/adorable and what the child being shopped for might actually want/play with.
Many of the pop-culture seasonal touchpoints of my youth are completely lost on my kids. You see, while I may have memorized every word to both the Snow Miser and the Heat Miser's songs from The Year Without a Santa Claus, I'm pretty sure the only Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas special my kids have ever seen has been Rudolph.
I am so thrilled that the United Way is sponsoring a Teen Gift Drive this holiday season. Sure, teen "wants" often aren't as fun to shop for as precious baby dolls and sweet Lego sets. But middle and high school kids still "need" to feel valued and loved during this time of year. And helping a family in need to provide this for their child is a wonderful way to get in the spirit.