My Kids are Scared of Halloween

fear of HalloweenPreviously published in The Kansas City Star newspaper – October 23, 2015

Once upon a time, there were children who hated Halloween.

“Shut your mouth!” the crowd exclaims in unison.

True story.

“How can children not enjoy a holiday, where they can play dress up and receive copious amounts of free candy?” you ask.

Apparently, some kids are afraid of the dark and/or monsters and can experience extreme fears of the holiday far into grade school. Before motherhood, I wouldn’t have believed it, but I have firsthand observed children – due to their overly creative minds and fueled by zombie commercials on the Disney Channel – who have such a fear of all things Halloween they have been knocked out of prime candy-retrieval position for years.

As a child, I remember being afraid that monsters would jump out at me in the middle of the night. That’s normal, right? There was that one time I was dreaming and thought I was being stalked by Scott Baio, but it turns out the poster of him at the foot of my bed was just bad Chachi placement on my part.

Believe it or don’t, but there’s a diagnosable phobia for the fear of Halloween. It’s called Samhainophobia – an obvious choice. Not quite sure how they came up with this catchy title, but I have a sneaking suspicion a gang of scoundrels picked on a guy named Sam Hain on October 31st. And after Sam was found screaming through Town Square in his pajamas with burned poo on his slipper, the gang made amends and named his anxiety after the one they bullied. But I could be wrong.

The first Halloween my girls went all “Sam Hain” down our street was when they were four and three. Most of the house decor was mild, but there was one that aimed to scare the Jujubes out the kids. The lighted ghouls flickered on their aluminum siding. A floating head in a fish bowl cackled when nearing the doorbell. The year before we had tried to get our sweet Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck to inch toward their porch, but that year they were brave and headed to meet the “nice neighbor who wanted to give them candy.”

I’m not sure if a curse word left my lips after the homeowner welcomed us because had I stopped breathing and the kids were screaming so loud I couldn’t hear anything. As my sweet daughters were running like their inner GPS was set to home, I was left alone on the porch with a man dressed as Frankenstein. I said, “Trick or Treat” dressed in my mom jeans, snatched a handful of mini Snickers for me, and thanked him with a shaking voice.

“You’re welcome,” came out of the man’s trachea device. The man who scared my kids was using a device shaped like an electric razor to speak with because he had lost his voice box. It was the kind of device one puts up to his chin to make his voice sound like a terrifying robot.

Really? If he had just come out with no decorations, no costume and dressed like Santa Claus, he would have scarred my children. Thanks for torturing my children for your pleasure.

We moved from that neighborhood, not because of the dear man who lost his vocal chords and his ability to judge what is appropriate for young children, but because we were looking for a more kid centric environment.

Moving in November, we didn’t witness the Halloween antics until the next year. Don’t get me wrong; we love our neighborhood, the people and their sense of fun. But out of all the neighborhoods, we picked the one with the scariest yard decorations. There are several homes with people hanging by nooses from trees, graveyards with appendages reaching out, and decapitated men in coffins. These are some seriously talented, artistic thriller movie scenes.

I guess it’s only the month of October we have to alter our driving paths, and age will fix my girls’ fear; but until then, they will be passing out candy until the holiday becomes fun.

Until then, we won’t be getting sacks full of neighbor candy and my husband and I will have to curb our chocolate desires until November 1st. The day-after Halloween candy sales are amazing!

Extravagant Kid Birthdays Wear on Nerves

Cupcakes closeup

Previously published in The Kansas City Star news: September 26, 2015

I grew up in a house where birthdays were not only celebrated, but morphed into a pageant. They always included some sort of a talent segment and occasional formal wear, but thank goodness swimsuits never made an appearance. (That one Christmas when Grandpa took off his shirt by the tree to model his new gift was enough torture for a lifetime. As a result, we enforced a stringent dress code.)

We couldn’t celebrate a birthday on just one day. Apparently, the idea of throwing one party annually never occurred to us. Why would you do that when you could drag out your birthday for a week?

Lice Claim They Need Some Respect

lice story with itching hand

I need to air my recent grievance to the public. Truly, I try to be the wine-glass-is-half-full type of gal, but I had a bomb dropped on me that brought out the cynic in my Syrah.

There is no way to sugarcoat my woe. In fact, I’m pretty sure I would prefer a root canal than wish this on my worst enemy. At least there are drugs that can help you get through mouth surgery. I’d rather have an endless laundry pile rather than experience this again.

Wait, I take that last one back. That’s partially what’s been causing my panic attacks.

Just rip off the Band-Aid, and spit it out…

We had lice. Parasites. An infestation, if you will. The secret L-bomb!

Never before have I so vehemently practiced sterile technique, and I’ve worked inpatient in a children’s hospital.

If you’ve never experienced these little bugs from hell, you will. I hate to be the bearer of horrific news, but it’s inevitable. Either your kids or your grandkids will drop off these itchy nuggets while you’re watching reruns of All in the Family in your comfy living room recliner – and those suckers will klatch onto your hair follicles and (shh!) re-pro-duce.

Oh, yes I’m sure many of you were like me. “I’m too clean to get lice,” I boasted. “They are for peasants and third-world country dwellers!” Well, I’m here to tell you my clean head and various princess heads in the neighborhood have never itched so badly. This pest war has entered my suburb and I’m ticked!

After much personal research and costly visits to the “experts,” I am a professional louse executioner. I might even start up a lice removal version of Stella and Dot jewelry or Jamberry nails home parties.

The reason why I’m jumping on my tea tree oil box is it is about time we stop shaming our kids. I want to break through today’s social barriers and go all “Norma Rae” about kicking the stigma to the curb. I’ll be yelling it from the rooftops, from church steps and various factory union meetings – whatever it takes to get my message out.

Lice is not a four-letter word! (waits for applause)

OK, maybe it is, but shouldn’t we be able to discuss infestation outside of school nurse room curtains and dark alleyways? What’s so shameful about having bugs taking residence on your noggin? I agree it’s gross, but shaming others is unjust. If you are brave enough to discuss it with friends, you will find out that about every house in your zip code has experienced the insanity that comes with the territory.

Especially now, that there are teenaged-mutant lice running rampant in many states. The stories are plastered across all media. These buggers are resistant to over-the-counter drugs. They have built up such resistance to old-school treatment, that everyone’s going to have them. It’s the new fad.

“Did you hear? Becky’s family has lice.”

“No! I’m so jealous! You know that lice is the new black stink bug.”

“Yes, it’s all over Facebook!”

Maybe lice infestation isn’t pleasurable. Unless, you have some twisted love affair with washing every fabric item in your house, vacuuming daily for three weeks, or twice a day picking nits out of your loved one’s tresses.

But can’t we give lice a break? Nits happen. Deal with it, stop the blaming and quit laughing at the downtrodden.

And remember, paybacks are an itch!








The Sweet Life of a Grandmother

As Time Goes by, Here’s Walking with you, Kid

becoming a grandmotherI’m sure this will come as a surprise to those who know my family, but I’m proud to announce that I’ve become a grandmother! Yes, I know my daughters are eight and nine, but I’m thrilled about my new role.

When I was in college my mother asked for grandkids to spoil. It might have been a tad early to request and perhaps she could have kept that desire to herself, but now I understand the draw.

My friends with older children have been sharing how wonderful it is becoming a Grandmother because you get to love your grandkids with all your heart, but return them when your pampering itch is scratched (aka when the whining and begging is so obnoxious you need to escape.)

My new grandson is perfect. He is sweet, loves to play outside without complaining, and when he sees me, he comes running with an unconditional look of love that can only come from a grandchild. It fills my heart every time.

My grandson, Teddy, is the cutest Yorkshire terrier. He’s the Toto to my Dorothy. The gold at the end of my rainbow…

Actually, did I mention he isn’t really mine? My friend mentioned her new dog loves to go for walks and a light went off in my blonde head that Teddy and I needed to become besties.

Before you contact me, I have not started a dog walking business because I’m more of a cat person than dog gal. But my neighbor’s dog is a ray of sunshine when he bounces along the streets of my suburb. He has a pep in his step that makes me beam.

I’ve been looking for a walking partner for some time. Recently, I mentioned that bikes and I have issues. OK, they hate me. But a nice walk in the morning gives me a boost of endorphins and my brain fog clears as well.

The first day of school for my girls wasn’t different than any other year. We had prepared the perfect school outfits that are only special that first day in order to memorialize the day in a file in my computer that may never be retrieved.

We took the annual cute backpack pictures, the “I love school” pose, the “I love my sister so I’m going to joyfully hug her even though we fought over hairbrushes just 5-minutes before” pose, and my favorite – the “make the goofiest pose you can.” My wonderful goofballs make this mother so proud!

My girls actually enjoy going to school, one loves to learn and the other is the school’s welcoming committee. Because of this, I haven’t shed a tear on day one since I left my oldest that first day of Kindergarten.

So when I walked them into school this year, I was only a bit shocked they ditched me in front of the school to join their friends. Every parent knows how important it is to let your children cut the cord and fly away toward independence. But it still stinks.

Leaving the building with tears welling in my eyes was a shock to me. Normally, I love the sound of silence. As a writer, these are the moments we cherish. But this year I felt lonely.

I missed being able to chat with my daughters. And instead of pining for another baby because I’m not crazy, I remembered Teddy.

Now I look forward to letting my children join their friends every morning; and when I feel like it, I pick up my new walking buddy and chat throughout the neighborhood. He never argues with me and I’m always right.

Teddy, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


The Ice Cream Man Cometh

Close your eyes and think back to any summer of your youth. Mmmh, ice cream!

Didn’t you love to hear the calliope music faintly at the end of the block? You would stop dead in your tracks, gasp and stridently whisper to your friends, “Did you hear that?” And in unison everyone yelled, “It’s the ice cream man!”

Then pandemonium! In a frantic, wild disbursement of children, short legs sprinted inside to their piggy bank or their mom’s purse. There was boisterous begging for spare change or last week’s allowance so they could be first to the truck ladled full of pure sugar, chocolate and food coloring. The Bomb Pop was the “bomb,” the Drumstick was “banging,” and there was nothing funny about missing a Good Humor

Oh, memories of a simpler time when children were allowed to run the streets with friends and chase trucks stocked with high-fat dairy products. Life was good!

But it’s not the same world now. There are recommendations to refrain from high-fructose corn syrup and high-fat dairy. And I’m sure some study somewhere indicates that food coloring causes behavioral problems in children from Dayton, Ohio. It’s enough to shut down the ice cream business all together. And if that isn’t bad enough, there are documented cases of children being accidentally run over by the trucks!

I have been researching how to resolve this summertime trouble, and an acquaintance in the Chicago area mentioned that she and her young children call the ice cream truck the “music truck.” Her children have no idea the trck is filled with glorious cold snacks. They think it’s nice that a truck periodically comes down their block to provide some music while they are out playing. What a nice person to fill the neighborhood with circus music! She will let them know when they can cross the street carefully.

I know another woman — let’s call her Miss Popular — who for years kept her basement freezer swollen with a variety of icy treats. Every time the ice cream truck would approach her home, her children and those playing with her kids would stop what they were doing and run to her basement. It was their cue to grab a free dessert. My guess is the ice cream man in her neighborhood wasn’t fond of her.

Now, I am not trying to close down the mobile ice cream business. Far from it. I love a good Bomb Pop when the heat index starts climbing. I just advise parents to educate young kids that even though the ice cream truck can be a sweet summer experience, they are no different than any other vehicle driving down the street. It’s best not to run in front of one.

So may your family have a safe summer, and remember to supply your children with the appropriate ice cream requirement mandated by the USDA’s food pyramid. You might have to squint to see it, but I’m pretty sure it’s there. At least that’s what I tell my family.

Do you have fond memories of the ice cream truck? Or were you scared of it?