Happy Halloween

Oct 30 2009

You know when it totally pays off to have five kids?

On Halloween.

Now, some parents are actually nice to their kids.  They start Halloween and Fall Harvest preparations weeks in advance.

There are trips to the pumpkin patch that result in adorable photos of tiny tykes perched on enormous squashes, galoshes covered in mud, cold-kissed red cheeks peeking out over puffy coats.

Nice parents do art projects that include jaunts to gather Fall leaves for pressing, scissor and glue time to create construction paper spiders, maybe even fun family time making their own costumes.

Next come the fine candy and shiny new bucket purchases.  And then the big night arrives.

Kids are dressed to the nines, candy is delivered in mega doses, and everyone heads home happy.

Good parents, after going over every piece of candy and looking for injection punctures and razor blades (ah, the fun of Halloween), even let their kids keep all of their own candy.

There there’s our family.

In lieu of the pumpkin patch this year, my kids have free pumpkins that were sitting outside of an insurance agent’s office in our home town.  We don’t even have to carve them since the agent’s face is on a sticker stuck to the outside of the pumpkin.  Two birds (pumpkin patch + carving), one stone.  Yay!

And costuming five kids can be tricky.  Did you know that new costumes for children run $25-50 each?  For our family, that would be $125-250 for one night’s worth of Halloween fun.  No, thank you.  I’m simply unwilling to spend the money for new costumes… but I’m also unwilling to spend the time making five costumes.  What’s a mom to do?

Get creative, that’s what.

Last year, for my two-year-old twins, I raided the pet costume section.  Yep, that’s me.  No shame at all.  I gleefully ignored the “not for children” warnings on the labels and purchased, at $7 a piece, matching bumble bee costumes meant for canine companions.  They fit like jackets.  So the head-piece with the antenna was a little weird, what with the giant gaping holes where dog ears should poke through; so what?  It was dark.  They got candy.  Everyone wins.

We had lost the hats by this point, but here are the dog costumes in all their glory.

This year, my now three-year-old twins are costumed out of the pajama section at Target.  In good old UnderRoos fashion (if you’re a child of the 70’s, you’re totally tracking with me right now), I found baseball PJ’s one size too big at $9 each.  The extra size is important so you can bundle the kiddos up in all their warm gear and then squash all the fabric down by pulling the PJ’s over the top.  Sort of a Baseball on Steriods effect; we can have fun and stay current on current events!  Best part is, they’ll have “new” PJ’s a year from now that are already purchased.

My nine-year-old has been outfitted from house-wares.  I found a giant, bendy spider with large, pipe-cleaner-type legs that’s meant to be used as home decor.  I can bend those legs around my son’s arms and torso, and he looks like he’s been attacked by a monster spider.  Add some fake cobwebs that are supposed to be used to decorate outside, and splash some of my white-girl foundation on his tan skin, and he looks like a spider victim.  Sufficiently morbid for any boy to love.  And a total of $10 for the whole bit.

My girls make costume-life easy since I’ve been paying through the teeth for dance costumes for years.  They get the “oh, go get something out of the dance box” line.  Which is followed by the “but that’s not fair!” response.  Which leads to the “life’s not fair” follow-up, or the preferred, “that’s because we love them more than we love you” statement… and on and on and on.  Free fun for everyone!

And on to Halloween night and trick-or-treat time.

I’ve already stated that kind and generous parents let their kids keep all of the candy they collect.

We’re neither kind nor generous.  Sorry, kids.

Here’s how I figure it.

You (my children) can’t go trick-or-treating without me.  I am a necessary part of your candy-harvesting intentions.  I, however, due to social and cultural impositions that I do not support, am not allowed to trick-or-treat myself.  Therefore, I’m out there doing most of the work (costume acquisition, make-up, and hair included) without any of the benefit.  These are unacceptable working conditions.

Commence contract negotiations.

I, the parent, will take you, the child, trick-or-treating.  I will act as costume designer, make-up artist, hairstylist, safety patrol, cheerleader, manners instructor (say “thank you”), and coach/trainer (“just do one more block”).  In return, you, the child, agree to pool your candy.  You will have one bag, marked with your name, in which you can reserve your 15 favorite pieces of candy for your sole use.  All remaining candy will reside in a communal vessel (aka, the candy basket) for all family members to partake equally.

On birthdays, we throw our kids parties.  On Christmas, they get stocking fillings and presents.  For Easter, we arrange egg hunts, fill baskets and make bunny cake.

On Halloween, we make it all back, baby!  Kids, start your engines.  It’s time for the Woolsey family candy-acquision machine to roll into town.

Who has five kids?  We do!  Who’s getting candy?  We are!

Happy Halloween.

 

All My Byself

Oct 12 2009

For three more days, I have two two-year-olds.

Watching kids grow up is bittersweet.  I’ve never been the parent who mourns the stages that are past; I more champion the present and look forward to the future.

I think I realize that, as much as I’d love to have one more chance to cradle my 11-year-old as an infant, I also don’t miss the lack of sleep.  And I really enjoy that she can use her words now, even if I don’t always enjoy the words she uses.

Having twins when my eldest, Abby, was 8 years old, though, has given me a different perspective on time.  When she was little, I remember my mom and my mother-in-law both telling me how quickly the years fly by.  In my head, I knew they were right.  But in my heart, after months filled with no sleep and Disney movies and spaghetti-o’s, I wasn’t sure.  Time could drag.

By the time the twins were born, I’d learned a different heart lesson.  The days are often slow, but the years are a blink and over in an instant.  I’ve learned, I hope, to savor the best moments and to be more relaxed about the hard ones.

Even though I’m not much of a mourner for time gone by, I do try to take a little time to reflect.

Reflecting on the past year of age two (times two), I realized we’ve had a lot of “me do it” moments.  When kids push hard for more independence, we end up with a lot of spills, a lot of owies, a lot of learning from mistakes, a lot of triumphs, a lot of tenderness, a lot of laughs, and a lot of fun.

Cael, in particular, insists on doing everything “All My Byself.”  It’s a phrase the rest of the family has adopted whenever we don’t need help or if we want to just be left alone for a while.

Sometimes, I think it’s not fair that I’m a grown-up and, therefore, required to use my nice, grown-up words.  Sometimes, I want to do things all my byself, too.  I want to shout it at the top of my lungs whenever I perceive someone encroaching on my space and my stuff.

  • I want to make juice without a minimum of 3 kids stirring it with grubby hands ’til it’s all over the floor.  ALL MY BYSELF!
  • I want to go potty without an audience.  ALL MY BYSELF!
  • I want to sleep at night in a bed not littered with kid-made crumbs ALL MY BYSELF!

I think, though, that occasionally,

rarely,

every once in a while,

with age comes wisdom.

Because I know that if I start to ask to be all my byself, eventually I might be all my byself.  And… shhhh, don’t tell the kids… I don’t think that’s what I really want.

I had a dear friend, Gloria, who was laugh-out-loud funny, always creative, and incredibly loyal.  When she died unexpectedly, a group of her friends painted WWGD mugs in her memory.  Mine is next to me as I type.  What would Gloria do?

Gloria was impulsive and friendly and compassionate and stubborn.  My seven-year-old, Gloria Aden, is named for her.  Go figure.

One of my favorite Gloria memories was watching her organize an impromptu game for high school kids at camp one year.  It was a game of chair frisbee.

Chair frisbee was just like regular frisbee, except you had to stand on, and weren’t allowed to leave, your chair.  If you’ve ever played real frisbee, you know that it’s pretty much impossible to play it from a stationary position.

So, when the frisbee was inevitably over- or under-thrown, the players had to figure out what to do.  They started asking passersby for “a little help, please.”  “Um, a little help?”

Pretty soon, non-players would pick up the frisbee and hand it back.  Sometimes, they would grab a chair and start playing, too.  Either way, the frisbee was back in play.

It was hilarious to watch, this silly non-game with lame rules.  And it was an incredibly beautiful example, too, of building community.  People were included and embraced… and needed.

We eventually named the game “A Little Help, Please.”

I love learning things from my kids and from my friends.

The “All My Byself” stage is important.  Being self-sufficient builds confidence.  It’s good and right to struggle with something, and it’s gratifying when we figure things out after our determination and work-ethic saw us through.

I want my kids to learn to do things All My Byself.

I also want them to learn when to throw in the towel and ask for a little help.  Sometimes, we all have to have permission to stand on the chair and say, feebly at first, “A little help, please?”  And then more confidently, “Really, folks, I need some help.”

So, standing on the precipice and looking at my boys turning three… and then Ian turning ten… and Aden turning eight… and Abby, well, being a middle schooler, I say,

Bring it.

You know why?

Because I’m ready.  I’m confident.  I know I have this in the bag.

All my byself.

And with a little help, please.

Atten…TION!

Oct 12 2009

My dad is a former Marine.

There were lots of Marine-isms in our house growing up.

We marched.

We know the Marine Corps Hymn.

We can “sir, yes, SIR” with the best of ’em.

We know the difference between a rifle and a gun.  As in, “This is my rifle. *grab rifle* This is my gun. *grab your boy parts* One is for fighting.  One is for fun.”

And we can salute.  Both ways.

I’m pretty sure my mom’s really excited that I have a blog right now.  (Never think your children will stop embarrassing you.  You’ll just be disappointed.)

Anyway, every now and then my dad would bring us to AH-tehhn-SHUN!  You really have to clip the “shun” off short for it to be authentically Marine.

None of that has anything to do with what I’m about to tell you, other than the word attention.  Of course, it might explain a bit about past posts.

I call Aden, age 7, the Mix Master.  She is supremely gifted at just the right blend of sweetness, charm, manipulation and backhanded compliments.  She leaves the listener wondering, Did she really mean that?  Is she saying what I think she’s saying?  Did she just manage to deliver the perfect insult couched as a compliment so we can’t bust her?

Aden’s a genius.

Lately, she’s been repeating one particular phrase.

“Mom, I love you so, so, so much.  Thanks for paying attention to me.”

Gee, Aden.  I love you, too. At least I know that part of the response.

Am I supposed to respond to the attention comment, though?

I don’t know.

On the one hand, it would probably be a good idea.  A direct response could provide her with new information while being a supportive and sympathetic mommy.

Yes, I know I don’t pay enough attention to you.  Bad news is, that’s not likely to change anytime soon.  Good news is, you’re in great company as none of your siblings gets enough attention, either.

Minus the sympathy, I guess.

On the other hand, it may not be the greatest idea to confront this head-on.

I spend an extraordinary amount of time training my kids to ask for what they need.  Part of this is a desire to teach good communication skills, but a bigger part is that I patently suck at subtle communication, so I’m reluctant to positively reinforce it.

To kids who complain, “I’m thirsty,” I say, “That sounds uncomfortable.”  Funny how all five kids know how to procure water now.

To kids who whine, “There are no cups,” I respond, “I wonder how you’ll solve that problem.”  And then they do.

And so, I suppose to kids who say, “Thanks for paying attention to me,” I’ll just say, “You’re welcome.”

Actually, I think Aden and I started this exchange about six weeks ago.

I’d love to tell you how it’s working out, but I haven’t really been paying attention.