I love you, Halloween, but this relationship is moving too quickly for me

We have a bowl in our pantry where we collect candy from special events to dole out periodically to the boys. Since it is pre-Halloween, there are slim pickings left in the bowl. The last time I let Buster pick something from it, we were down to a handful of restaurant mints and few pieces of bubble gum.

slim pickins

The empty bowl says it’s time for some Halloween. I should pay more attention to what our dishes have to say.

Buster, who has never had gum before, picked up one of the pieces and asked, “What’s this?”

“That’s bubble gum,” I replied. “You don’t eat it; you just chew on it for a while, then spit it out.”

Buster envisioned this strange ritual, made and face, and concluded, “I don’t know how to do this one.” He tossed it back into the bowl and took a mint.

It will be nice to get some candy the kids understand in the bowl again.

On the other hand, Halloween is approaching at a blinding speed this year. I don’t even know what the kids are going to be yet. Big Brother mentioned something about being a soldier again, but this year wearing my WWI doughboy helmet. I nixed that idea. It’s a steel helmet, which is going to get heavy on his head in about a minute, and I’m not carrying that thing around the neighborhood. It probably wouldn’t even hold that much candy.

The last thing a kid's going to want on his head for an hour, and an awkward candy carrier at best.

The last thing a kid’s going to want on his head for an hour, and an awkward candy carrier at best.

Some friends will be Trick-or-Treating with us. It’s more fun with friends, and the other kids will probably have good costumes. Maybe I can slide over toward the friends and kind of pretend we’re not with those kids whose parents don’t care enough to adequately costume them for Halloween.

If it’s snowing, like last Halloween, we’ll be off the hook. I’ll just tell my boys to make a show of complaining about how Mommy made them wear their winter coats and hats overtop of their super-awesome costumes. Cold weather is the great Trick-or-Treat equalizer – knocks the Pinterest parents down to my level for an evening.

Last year's jack-o-lantern, because there is no image of this year's jack-o-lantern yet.

Last year’s jack-o-lantern, because there is no image of this year’s jack-o-lantern yet.

This is potentially the first year for Big Man to go Trick-or-Treating. The thing about toddlers is they don’t walk fast enough to maximize the treats potential of the neighborhood, and we’re all about efficiency when it comes to collecting free candy. I learned my lesson about trying to carry a toddler around town several years ago when I wasn’t even as old as I am now, and when the toddler wasn’t such a substantial child as Big Man is. We’re going to have to put him on wheels, somehow. Maybe he can ride in the wagon with Buster, because, truth be told, Buster still slows down the operation, too.

Halloween shouldn’t be about a dad yelling at the big kids to slow down and the little ones to hurry up. It should be about friends and fun and treats and showing respect to your dad by giving him a fair cut of your candy for his trouble.

That’s the true spirit of the season.

Another week of Halloween in the books

When I was a kid, Halloween was one day. You had a party at school. If you were lucky, it was a year when the school staff were feeling ambitious, which meant an assembly with a costume parade. That night, you went trick or treating for an hour. If you had a complicated costume, you didn’t take it off between school and trick or treating.

Nowadays, Halloween lasts at least a week. Every little business district and mall has its own trick or treat night. There are special events, all over town, for kids to get dressed up and load up with loot. My boys trick or treat where I work. It’s like March Madness for little goblins.

If you’ve read my thoughts on kids’ birthday parties, you’re all ready for me to go into a cranky-old-man rant about this. Well, the trick’s on you, because I’m not. Mostly, I’m not. The cranky old man in me will not go completely silent into that good night, but I have tranquilized him for this one.

I like expanded Halloween. Those of you who are handy and creative put a lot of time and thought into making your kids’ costumes. The rest of us put money into it. It’s a shame to have all of that time, thought, and treasure spent on one or two wearings of the costume.

Cheeze-Its, it's the cops

Any excuse necessary to slap Daddy into handcuffs.

I like seeing all the creativity that went into the costumes. If I’m only taking the boys out trick or treating on Halloween, I don’t get to see much of this, as we tend to fall in with the same group throughout the night. And if it happens to be snowing, like it was this year, all the costumes are hidden under winter coats anyway.

At the other events is where I see all the diverse ideas that would never have occurred to me, and I couldn’t make into reality anyway. I like creativity on display, and there’s no time when you get to witness it quite like during the Halloween season.

Smiling warrior

Our little soldier boy.

Also, I like candy, which is the foremost reason I’ve taught my children to share. The more events they go to, the more candy they get, and the bigger my cut. Sharing means caring, boys; now fork it over.

Nothing is perfect though, and if the cranky old man could pull the duct tape off, he’d tell you that I don’t care for the on-the-run dinners or the missed bed times that all this Halloween running around creates. Least of all do I enjoy the events where the boys trudge around in long lines, in the cold, and end up with a handful of those tiny Tootsie Rolls to show for it. They won’t miss the candy, but kids can tell when you’re phoning it in.

I’m content with what Halloween has become. This does not mean I’d like to see other “holidays” blow up like this. I don’t need a bloated Valentine’s Day. For one thing, the candy’s not as good.

Crabby duck

Three out of three children have hated this costume.

Skunk Boy meets the Owl Woman

The  Skunk Boy has been busy building up to Halloween.  On Thursday, we went trick-or-treating among the businesses in town. On Friday, we went to a Halloween science exhibit. Our little pole cat was involved in a three-way tie in the cutest costume contest. Way to go, Skunk Boy!

On Saturday afternoon, we enjoyed an event at the nature center. The boy was not sick of his costume yet. He seemed quite comfortable in his skunk skin, although the skunk cap did tend to get a bit warm.

The event highlight was a hayride, which consisted of some sort of all-terrain vehicle pulling a large utility cart lined with bales of straw. We were satisfied with this; the way led through the woods on narrow trails, and, face it, a ride is a ride.

Skunk costume halloween

Skunk Boy plants himself next to the “Hayrides” sign and patiently awaits his turn. It’s refreshing to witness such civilized behavior from a skunk.

The tour guide in our hay wagon/utility cart was dressed up in a costume as well. “Can you tell what I’m dressed as?” she asked the group as we eased forward.

She had layers of textured patches, in varying shades of brown, covering her torso and a patchy hood over her head. “A crazy homeless hoarder woman?” I guessed under my breath.

“That’s right! I’m an owl!” she announced with glee. Apparently, some of the children had busied themselves with being perceptive during my gratuitous mumbling.

She sure knew enough about owls to be one. She told us all about owls: how their talons are sharp and strong, how they swoop down upon their prey. “What do owls eat?” she asked.

The kids tossed out animal names: squirrels, rabbits, mice, etc. I looked at my son. “Skunks,” I added. The boy laughed. It’s easy to laugh when you are a mondo skunk and think you’re too heavy to be carried off.

“Some owls are strong enough to carry a small deer,” our guide helpfully informed us. My son’s smile faded.

“But they would never do that,” she added and my son breathed easy, “under normal conditions.” Normal conditions? Is a 44-pound skunk riding on a bale of straw in a utility cart pulled by all-terrain vehicle a normal condition to an owl? Or is that just the kind of sight that gets owls thinking that it might be nice to do a little power lifting and bag a Guinness Book skunk? Imagine being four and trying to figure that out.

boy in skunk costume riding kayak

An owl would never pluck a skunk out of the kayak he was paddling on dry land . . . under normal conditions.

Our path led into the woods, which seemed to lessen the danger of owl attacks. The novelty of seeing spooky decorations hanging from the trees distracted us from further thoughts of owl massacres.

When we emerged into the clearing again, the giant owl at the back of our cart was still talking about owl eyes and hunting schedules. These owls will go on and on about themselves. My boy was no longer concerned.

“Owls hunt at night. That makes them what?” the owl lady asked.

I nudged my son for an answer. “Nocturnal,” he yawned. Riding without a care in the afternoon sun, he had already figured that out.