...with a husband and 5 sons, I am truly outnumbered....stories and thoughts on life from a mom in a houseful of little men!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Halloween Thing

Every year I think on this, and I'm always curious to hear others' thoughts on "the Halloween thing." I hope you all will share a little with me in the form of a comment, about how you see this holiday.

So here's my Halloween history: Growing up, I loved Halloween. I plastered our house windows and doors with cardboard cut-outs of pumpkins, ghosts, goblins, and the like. I'm amazed my dear parents put up with it; it was seriously tacky around there from October 1 to November 1. One year I even fashioned a ghost out of a sheet and hung it in a Pine tree. I loved the spooky music sung in music class, and the homemade haunted houses put up in the local communities. I loved perusing the Halloween aisle at the local dime store (that's what we called it--the "dime store"--ha!)

I loved dressing up and trick-or-treating. We lived outside of town, and so when I was little, Mom would drive my brother and I around the countryside to friends' and relatives' homes to trick-or-treat. We would stay and visit a few minutes with each (or sometimes much longer than a few minutes...or so it felt to an anxious little trick-or-treater!) Every year, I looked forward to our friend Charlotte's homemade popcorn balls, and my Aunt Verlie's big bag of candy (which out of many, many bags of candy, was labeled with my own name.)

When I got a little older, I would stay overnight at a friend's house in town. We could do the traditional, walk-down-the-sidewalk-and-go-door-to-door trick-or-treating....and so the progression of this holiday began... As my classmates and I got older, Halloween evolved into overnights with a gory movie. I positively shudder to think of the things I put into my mind. I certainly would not view these types of movies now, and CERTAINLY would not allow my kids to watch them. During these high school years, other classmates preferred it to be a mischief-making event...and later into an excuse to party (not in a good way.) Kudos to my mom and dad...they kept a pretty good eye on me and I really didn't participate in the Halloween mischief. I would have if I'd had the chance, though, and I remember many who did. They got into all sorts of trouble (if they were the lucky ones who got caught...aka the ones who had people who cared enough about them to catch them.)

During college, for students on-campus, Halloween was all about the dressing up and drinking...house parties and bars. Unhealthy. Scuzzy. Skanky. Not a good thing to be a part of...and as I grew in maturity and became a Christian and grew in my Christian walk, I realized that.

As a young-married, I loved decorating at Halloween time, but stuck to the cute pumpkins and little black kitties. We moved to Alaska, and the decorating charm wore off as my cute little trinkets froze in the ground or whatever. Let's face it--pumpkins and snow just don't really go all that well together.

We had our first baby...and to have my own little dolly to dress up however I wanted was SUCH fun. At 3 months old, Little Wise Bobcat was my own little red chili pepper and he was ADORABLE. We drove him up to visit the grandparents at their cabin. (The year before he was born, I dressed up our dog--yes, our DOG, as a princess and we drove up to their cabin to "trick-or-treat"!) We visited and ate candy. What's not to like about that?!

Baby #2 came along and of course I had to dress up my newest dolly. He was an adorable baby lion and the big bro was a fireman. Adorable. We were invited to a harvest festival at a local church, which had a little hot dog supper and games/prizes for small children. Lots of fun and we did that for the next few years. The only exception was the year we tried a larger festival at the fairgrounds. YUCK. We spent 1/2 the night in notoriously long lines, about 1/4 the night trying to distract our babies from seeing some horrendously gory costumes, and the other 1/4 the night playing games. I was becoming very disenchanted, as I thought about the years to come. Is this something we really wanted to put time and energy into?

Through these years, I have noticed something else. An upping of the ante, you might say. Gone, for the most part, are the "cute" Halloween decorations I used to see around and about. Marketed and displayed in their place, is a whole host of really, really disgusting decor. You know what I'm talking about. Things designed to strike shock and fear in a person. It used to be fun to check out the seasonal aisle. Now I find myself avoiding that area of stores entirely, particularly if I have the children with me, even needing to avoid certain stores for the entire month of October, in some cases.

Jessica, you're going a little overboard here!!!! Maybe I am. But...am I? It is my job to instill and encourage goodness in my children. Do these other things really have any place here if that is my goal? As children of The King, we ought to be encouraging faith in our children--not fear. The roots of Halloween are pagan...and dark. Honestly, and unfortunately, those things were a draw to me as a kid; it was harmless fun, right? I was fascinated by the spooky music, the witches and ghosts, and scary stuff. I know we could ignore those aspects (and we do) and make a big deal out of the dressing up in a good way and the candy and things. However, then we'd be setting the stage for the kids to always expect something to go on during Halloween. We'd be ever-so-subtly instilling in them that celebrating darkness is cute. There's a progression to it all. Feel good/eat candy/dress up now....but one day they'll be with their fellow teenage friends and having to make a decision on a movie...or they'll be on a college campus and deciding what to do. In other words, Mommy won't be there to watch their every move. If Halloween was always a big deal, will they still be expecting it to deliver a thrill? I'm picturing the partying and carousing and wearing of skanky outfits that goes on, all in the name of "good fun." Yuck. We need to do all that we can now...to help and equip our guys to choose goodness in the future.

I know that despite Halloween's history, many families do try and participate in the innocent aspects of it--like the dressing up/pretending/eating candy aspects. I'm not diggin' at ya if you do. :) We tried for a few years to wade through it and take the good out of it, leaving the bad. We just found that it took too darn much energy--energy that is precious and in short supply during this season of life. At some point it became apparent that we'd rather put that energy toward other means. There are so many GOOD things to encourage our boys to do!

We've spent a few years trying to think of the perfect solution. I admit that some years I sort of lament of how fun it would be to dress my little cuties up and take them trick-or-treating. But, here's the reality: Put energy into costumes...probably money too, but definitely energy. Cover up the costumes with a huge winter coat. Brave the wind and cold and yet more WIND to go--somewhere--where we may or may not see things we'd rather not. Definitely we'd be instilling in them that it's all cute fun. Hmmm...no thanks.

We ditched the festivals several years ago. One year we went swimming. That was a fun alternative. We have some fun neighbors who have a hayride every year...and we look forward to that as our big harvest event in lieu of Halloween. Still there's a bit of "what should we do" as we reach the end of the month and the hoopla rises. There are good things to take part in. Do we want to? The answer, for us, has been "no".

So, for the last couple years, this is what October 31 looked like for us. A bowl of candy sat in the kitchen. We never have trick-or-treaters...but you never know...and besides, we like to eat all the left-overs (which usually consist of the entire bowl.) We got all sticky and gooey carving a big pumpkin, roasted and ate yummy pumpkin seeds, and set the pumpkin out on the front porch. We watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown over a bowl of popcorn. Before bed, we ran outside in the dark and cold in our jammies to see how pretty our pumpkin looked from the road. How boring! Except it really wasn't. It was a warm, fun evening in together...and we enjoyed it very much!

I wrote the majority of this post LAST YEAR! Here I am on October 31 once again, and here is what our night looked like. We cozily ate our family supper of homemade baked beans and potato soup. Boys cleaned up their toys and put on their jams, and returned to the kitchen table for root beer and the caramel corn and pumpkin bars we made earlier in the day. Our happy pumpkin, which we carved a couple nights ago, glowed warmly. The front porch light was on, just in case, as we laughed through the classic Great Pumpkin. A pleasant family evening, which they will hopefully remember, but without all the pomp and spook-umstance.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

MMM Good

I gotta grab a bag of these jobbies every October; they're just so festive and nostalgic--one of the little things that speak "fall". Tonight I discovered something better than candy corn, and that is candy corn with cashews.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Random Monday

It's been an absolutely gorgeous, sunny, crisp day today! As much of a summer-and-sunshine girl that I am, I still really enjoy fall. Probably, September is my favorite month, which is why Tony and I married in September. We recently celebrated 17 years, which quite frankly, blows my mind. Time is flying....

Life is beautiful....

and I scarcely feel there's time to catch a breath.

This is something that's been on my mind--a lot--especially since Zachy was born. I keep thinking about the passage of time...different times and seasons...including the times and seasons of a human life. We hang onto this life...cling to it with all we've got. Yet, this is just a blink of an eye compared to what lies ahead. Most of the time, things like new wrinkles and gray hair don't bother me. I must admit, however, that I've caught a glimpse of myself occasionally (like in the mirror in the stairwell) and actually caught myself thinking, "WHO is THAT?!" I felt a tinge of glum, and then remembered with a smile that the wrinkles and gray hair are TEMPORARY!! My body is going to continue to show signs of age, faster and faster all the time. I will develop more aches and pains. This too is all temporary, for there is a place being made for me by my Savior who knows me and loves me so well.

Do you, my dear reader, know this Savior? Do you know this One who ensures our futures if we just ask him to? Do you know the One who ensures that our gray hairs, wrinkles, and ailments are temporary? He is the One who knew you before He created the Earth...who made plans--good plans for your life, to prosper you and not to harm you? If you don't yet know this Jesus, I pray you will come to know Him soon; He's been waiting for a relationship with you!

Furthermore, not only does He ensure the prosperity of our futures when we choose to follow and serve Him, but He also sees every secret sacrifice we make. He sees all those little and not-so-little things you do that make you wonder, "Does it even really matter at all?" All those things DO matter if we are doing them to His glory.

The boys and I were talking about this recently. I asked them, "How do we praise God?" They had several wonderful answers, such as, "singing His praise", "reading our Bibles", "memorizing scripture", "helping Mommy and Daddy", and "being kind to others". They were surprised when I also added to their list, "running fast", "riding your bikes", "playing Playmobil together", and "working in your gardens". Whatever we do, if we do it with thanksgiving to the One who works in and through us, we praise God in so doing! He is the one who gave us the blessings we enjoy in nature, our physical bodies, and relationships. He is the one who made us to be able to run, to taste good food, appreciate an amazing sunset, and experience the invigorating fall breezes. Everything good is from Him. It all is to His glory.

"Random Monday" is the title to this post, and wow is it random! Seeing as I began writing this with the main intent of encouraging you all to teach your children how to do household chores, I see it REALLY IS aptly named.

SO...moving right along... Today I experienced a real blessing, a reward, a fruit of labor if you will. So much mothering advice I've received has been about letting your children help you, even when it would be easier to do a task yourself. I've taken this to heart. When little ones clumsily scoot the chair over to the already-crowded kitchen counter while screeching, "Can I be your kitchen helper??!!" I find something for them to do to help, or should I say, to "help". You moms all know why I put quotations around that word! When a little one excitedly asks to scrub the toilet, and I'm thinking, "GROSS! This is going to be a MESS!" I do my best to smile, hand them the brush, and say, "Sure Honey, let me give you a few pointers." (Incidentally, I stand very near the scene to be sure they wash their little paws thoroughly afterward!)

Well, this past year, I've stepped it up in chore training. We've taken time to work with boys step-by-step to accomplish different household tasks the correct way. This fall, we implemented an official "chore time", right after breakfast. This is in addition to their expected tasks like making their beds, etc. I'm talking real housework--the stuff that in the past, Tony or I do or it doesn't get done-stuff. The boys LOVE this time and race to the chore chart to see what they get to do that particular day.

My heart swelled with gratitude last Friday night, when 6-year-old Spunky Cub exclaimed with exceeding joy, "Monday is MY day to clean the upstairs bathroom...and that means I get to use the new bottle of toilet cleaner!!!!!" Tony glanced my way and said, "It really is the little things, isn't it?!" The little boy is looking 3 days in advance to his chance to use the newest bottle of toilet cleaner. Wow.

This morning during daily chore time, I was working in the laundry room (my big focus chore for Mondays.) I went to use the bathroom afterward, and it was sparkling clean (and I didn't clean it!) It's an amazing joy to use a sparkling bathroom that I didn't sparkle! I then walked up the stairs, noticing that they were fluffy and dirt-free (and I didn't vacuum!) I then went into the kitchen, and the floor was swept, the table was scrubbed, the counters were clear and clean, and the dishes were washing (and I did none of the above.)

I feel as though I've arrived, Ladies and Gentlemen!

So, Mamas...get busy! Teach those chillins to pitch in, and in a big way. They will love contributing to the family in this way, you will love how helpful they are, and their future spouses will thank you. It takes work and patience to train those kiddos well, but it is well-worth the effort to help them find enjoyment and fulfillment in the household tasks they'll be doing their whole lives. In my book, it's as important (actually probably more important) than teaching them math, spelling, science, or a multitude of other skills and subjects. Really, only learning to read and study Scripture trumps the chore training.

Let's see...what other randomness do I have going on today? Well we've had the garden harvested for awhile now, except for the carrots. We pulled up about 1/2 of what was left of them today. When we have those eaten, we'll get the rest. I've been learning so much about gardening. The most important of which, is one must have healthy soil. Most of you are shaking your heads and saying, "Well of course...". It's taken me awhile to learn this, however. We'll be doing a big amending this fall, in hopes of a greater harvest next year. We still did ok this year, poor soil and all, but I'm excited of the prospect of rich, fertile soil for next summer.

This year yielded lots of carrots, quite a few (small) potatoes, TOMATOES (thanks to my Aunt Debbie who mailed us some water walls from Kentucky,) lots of Romaine, sugar snap peas, radishes, green onions, yellow zuchinis, and a wee, pathetic, li'l pumpkin. Eaglet and I try every year to grow a nice pumpkin. Every year is pretty much a flop, BUT, we have big plans to try again next spring!

Other randomness for this crazy-long post: We've been having a fun time learning lately. Just studied the Great Fire of London. The boys created the city of London:

And then to really re-enforce learning:

..they set the thing on fire. I LOVE homeschooling!

We've spent a fair amount of time around the fire pit lately:

We had a great little bonfire supper last Friday night, which included dessert:

No shame. They're licking the left-over caramel from the caramel apples, in case you're wondering.

...and to conclude this very looooong, rambling, stream of consciousness post:

Here's a couple cute baby photos as a reward for sticking with me! Check this one out--he's been falling asleep sucking two fingers lately:

Time a-flying or not, life is pretty sweet.