Tuesday Open Thread: Costume Edition

It’s Tuesday!

How was your Halloween? Did you trick-or-treat with your kids? Stay home and hand out candy? Turn out the lights and hunker down?

We joined a group of Maya’s classmates and their parents for a trick-or-treating loop around the neighborhood. Alex came with us and totally dug the whole concept. He was delighted to carry his pumpkin around and wouldn’t let it go. We left a big bowl of candy out on the porch and it was cleaned out when we got home at about 7:30. After that we didn’t get very many trick-or-treaters (maybe 20 or so) and as a result, we have a crapload of leftover candy.

Because I’m an idiot, I bought nothing but candy that I love. ACK!

My facebook feed featured several status updates complaining about older trick-or-treaters. Things like, “If you’re old enough to have cleavage, you shouldn’t be trick-or-treating” and “If you’re old enough to drive, you shouldn’t be asking for candy.”

I don’t mind teens as long as they’re polite. I had four high school boys show up at my door wearing nothing but beach towels around their waists and goggles hanging from their necks. I was a little taken aback but realized, oh, they’re swimmers. They were polite as can be and I had no problem giving them candy.

What say you? Is there a cut-off age for trick-or-treating? Any anecdotes to share?

Please post pictures of your costumed cuties, and let us know what else is on your mind today!


Saturday Open Thread

It’s the weekend, y’all!

And I don’t know about you, but I have already had my share of Halloween candy. Over the past few weeks, we have had a steady supply of candy corn and mini Twix bars in the house, and I have been partaking regularly. Maybe a couple of handfuls or candy corn a day, or one mini Twix here and there.

Turns out I was doing it wrong!

According to this story, it is better for your teeth to gorge on a bunch of candy at once than it is to eat one piece every couple of hours. Who knew?

Slowly snacking on Halloween candy every few hours, day after day, keeps your teeth bathed in enamel-corroding acid, the byproduct of bacteria feeding on sugar and other carbohydrates in your mouth. This leads to dental caries, or cavities.

For example, as far as oral hygiene goes, it is better to eat five candy bars at once than to eat one every few hours. In the first scenario, acid will build up in your mouth, but your saliva will naturally neutralize this over the course of an hour or so. And then that acid is gone. In the second scenario, you are constantly exposing your teeth to acid throughout the day, too much for saliva to wash away.

Gorging also is better, because it is more likely to be followed by tooth-brushing. People, and especially children, are less likely to brush their teeth after every candy bar, particularly if they aren’t at home.

Hmm…I still wouldn’t feel right letting my kid eat more than 2 to 3 pieces of candy at one time. I’m just grateful she only shows interest in the bucket o’ candy for a day or two, then the pumpkin gets shoved in a cupboard and forgotten. Until I find it…

My favorite candy is the delicious, aforementioned Twix. And my least favorite? Black licorice ::shudder::

Now I have an even better excuse to steer clear of it: licorice can lead to heart arrhythmias and other health problems when consumed in large quantities, according to the FDA.

Experts say that consuming 2 ounces of black licorice per day for two weeks can set the heart stuttering in susceptible individuals. The culprit is a compound called glycyrrhizin, which is what gives licorice its sweet flavor.

Glycyrrhizin causes the kidneys to excrete potassium. And low levels of potassium can make the heart beat dangerously fast or out of sync, says Dr. Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine.

The compound also leads to salt and water retention which can be a problem for people with heart failure or high blood pressure, Fonarow said.

Two ounces of licorice per day? Wowza.

What are your favorite Halloween indulgences? What are your least favorite?

What else is on your mind today? Chat away!


Saturday Open Thread: Halloween Preview Edition

It’s the weekend, y’all!

We’re starting the Halloween festivities early. Today we’re taking Maya to a concert by the Pacific Symphony designed to expose kids to classical music. Costumes are encouraged, so Maya will debut the Rapunzel wig we worked on yesterday. She already had the Rapunzel dress so the wig just completed the ensemble.

Alex will have two costumes: he will be a penguin AND Superman. His hair is longer right now and has a cowlick that causes this little Clark Kent curl when his hair is wet. So even though we already had the penguin costume, we couldn’t resist buying a second. The way I see it, this will be the last year he has no opinion on his costume, so I’m going for maximum goofiness :-)

What costumes will your kids be wearing this year? Will YOU be dressing up? I ordered a Supergirl costume online. I am waiting for it to arrive and praying it won’t be too short.

What are you up to this weekend? What’s on your mind today? Chat away!


A Cross-Gender Halloween Costume and a Mom’s Support

What happens when a five-year-old boy wants to be Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween? What assumptions will people make, what will he himself sense, and how will his mother respond when other parents criticize?

Cop’s Wife over at Nerdy Apple Bottom nails the answer: ”My job as his mother is not to stifle that man that he will be, but to help him along his way. Mine is not to dictate what is ‘normal’ and what is not, but to help him become a good person.”

If you have any interest in gender variance, self-expression, taking no nonsense from bigots, or a mother’s love, go read her full piece. It’s one of the best parenting posts I’ve read lately.


Wither Neighborhood Trick O’Treat?

For 7 years, I’ve lived in a “border” neighborhood. Just a few blocks south is full of wealthy White people with tidy yards, cobblestone streets, and brick tudors built in the 1930s. Just a few blocks north is some public housing, a stigmatized and mostly African-American neighborhood, and the “big scary street” where drive by shootings happen. In between, my neighborhood, is solidly working class and integrated. There are young professionals and families like ours with young kids, as well as older folks who have lived here for years. Though there are a few that I wish would clean up their yards a bit or put on a new coat of paint, most of the houses are fairly well kept. We have friendly relationships with all the folks around us, we are conveniently located, and our monthly mortgage payment is less than what we pay for our one kid to attend full-time Montessori preschool. So why did we spend 2 hours after DD went to bed night last night looking at houses online and making promises to budget more carefully to get out of credit card debt so we can move?

DH works until 6pm on Sunday nights, so DD and I rushed to make jack-o-lantern shaped pizzas, eat  dinner, light our pumpkin and all our outdoor halloween candles, and get her all dressed by the time he pulled into the driveway. Then we waited for some trick o’ treaters to knock on the door. And waited. Finally, a princess and a skeleton arrived and we unloaded 3 pieces of candy each. Okay, here we go! Or not. Another 15 minutes went by and we had no more knocks at the door. Just then, DH drove into the driveway and DD jumped up and down with excitement about getting to start trick o’ treating! We snapped a few pics of the Little Mermaid on the porch and then set out. She skipped ahead of me, singing, “halloween! trick o’ treat!” all the way down the block in search of a house with a porch light on. Literally, all the way down the block. Past a dozen or so dark houses on each side of the street. Finally, the neighborhood watch guy’s house had its light on. YIPPEE! After hitting exactly one other house on the next block, we headed home. While we were gone, DH had answered the door to one group of trick o’ treaters. We decided to leave our candy on the front step and head out to friends’ houses. After our experience, you could easily think that trick o’ treating was a dead tradition. Our daughter visited TWO houses in our neighborhood.

We drove the few blocks south and were transported into another world. Hundreds, literally HUNDREDS of children and parents swarmed this neighborhood. Our friends (a couple in their late 50s with grown children) were sitting on their porch enjoying wine and their fire pit and dispensing bucketfuls of candy. On their street, there were maybe 2 houses with porch lights out. We then drove to another friend’s house who lived in a similar neighborhood. A single 35 year old woman with no kids, she answered the door dressed as Princess Leia, while her dog was dressed as a fairy. DD visited about a dozen houses on the block and was happy with her loot. While we visited with Princess Leia and friends for about an hour, the doorbell rang no less than 30 times. Many of the visitors were probably my neighbors, as we all seem to have abandoned our neighborhood in favor of “destination trick o’ treating.” WHY?

My mom and I argued this morning about this, and she thinks that it’s just too dangerous for older people or young people alone to be answering the door on Halloween night. This fear persists despite the fact that our newspaper this morning reported no crime to speak of last night, which seems to be the case in general, according to this Wall Street Journal article. Kids are much more likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than to be harmed by a stranger. My mom’s neighborhood in another state has plenty of action on Halloween night, but she told me she’d just as soon have the tradition die because it’s kind of scary. I couldn’t disagree more. It’s not about the candy. What I experienced in those other neighborhoods last night felt like community. It felt like grown ups putting aside their schedules and their normal activities to make something fun happen for children. It felt neighborly. I actually even felt a little teary last night as I witnessed the discrepancy between these two worlds that existed only blocks apart. In one world, the local kids (and plenty of outsiders) are embraced and given candy, and in the other world, the local kids are feared.

So DH and I were searching online for houses last night. Maybe we should stay and fight for our little piece of the world. But it feels a lot easier to just jump ship to a place where people aren’t party poops. I want DD to live on a block where she can trick o’ treat, ride her bike, and where people decorate their houses for Christmas. I’ll gladly buy $100 worth of Halloween candy to hand out to kids who drive over from my former neighborhood be a part of a place like this. But I wish I didn’t feel like I had to.


Sunday Open Thread

Happy Sunday everyone!

Did anyone catch the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on TV yesterday? I caught the last half on CSPAN and, like most rallies, it was kind of boring to watch on TV. I did love reading the signs in the crowd and appreciated Jon Stewart’s closing speech. I bet it would have been fun to attend.

Would love to hear first-hand reports from our MTers who attended!

Now on to really important topics like… Halloween candy!

First question: what’s your favorite Halloween candy? It seems small children prefer plain old lollipops over full-size chocolate bars. But there’s a logical reason:

While both adults and children have roughly the same number of tastebuds, children have smaller tongues, meaning that their tastebuds are more concentrated, and thus they’re able to experience more intense flavor in sugary, fruity flavors. “For little kids, a sugary thing like that tastes a lot better than it does to us,“ says Wansink. (This also explains, says Childs, why children are more likely to seek out candy with “extreme“ sour flavors.)

Lollipops are attractive to younger kids for another reason: “Under 8 years old, a higher involvement with eating is something that little kids like,“ says Wansink. Little kids literally like to play with their food. “Suckers have a higher level of eating involvement—you can click them against your teeth, put it your mouth, and play with it, compared to a candy bar that you just wolf down,“ he says.

This could explain why my favorite childhood candy was… Fun Dip. :shudder:

Second question is– Candy Corn: Yea or Nay?

My sense is that people love it or hate it, and surveys seem to support my contention. I happen to LURVE it :-) And would you believe we consume 35 million pounds of candy corn each year? And that originally, it was also known as “chicken feed”?

I am working a Sunday shift today, but will be home in time to take the kiddos trick-or-treating come hell or high water. So listen up, crazy criminals and natural disasters: don’t mess with me today! I don’t have time to cover some crazy breaking news story :-)

What’s everyone up to? Will you be trick-or-treating with the kids, staying home and handing out candy, a little of both or neither?

Chat away!


Saturday Open Thread– Costumes Edition

It’s Halloween weekend, y’all! And I’m keeping this open thread simple: let’s post some pics of our costumed cuties…

As you can see, DD is Jessie from “Toy Story,” and DS is an unamused little monkey. Actually, I think I will snip the elastic around the face to loosen it before we go trick-or-treating on Sunday; we attended a Halloween party last weekend and the costume was scrunching his little face together and making his cheeks look even chubbier than they are :-)

I was bummed to discover that DD’s school doesn’t allow students to wear costumes. I didn’t ask why, but apparently that has been the policy for the past 4 or 5 years. DD didn’t seem to mind, as the class still got a little pizza party and three different parents sent goody bags for the kids(!). Still, it made me nostalgic for the preschool costume parades… What are the costume policies in your neck of the woods?

What’s everyone up to this weekend? I’ve got a soccer game, a Sunday shift and trick-or-treating with the kiddos on the agenda. Lately, weekends have meant little to no rest!

Chat away…


Spooky Stories

I’ll admit, I’m not a huge Halloween fan. It’s okay, but I don’t get all that into it. I love the idea of fantasy, but I’m not hardcore believer in ghosts/spirits. Neither do I think everything has a rational explanation. But I was reading a link on Jezebel about haunted houses, and I thought it might be fun this weekend to share your own spooky stories.

Here are mine:

My maternal grandfather, Gust (where DS gets his name) died three years before I was born. He had a seizure while in bed one night, and died less than two weeks later during surgery to relieve pressure from a brain aneurysm. He was 43. My grandma remarried and remained in the house for about 15 years, then sold it to my aunt & uncle. They divorced, and my aunt remarried and remained in the house.

I was visiting my aunt maybe ten years ago, and she was talking about how she found objects in her bedrooms moved around sometimes. She’s a very neat, organized person, and knew where she kept things. One was a small fringed jacket that she wanted to hang on a wall in her cowboy-theme room. She hung it in a closet, but would find it out on the bed. Her husband swore he knew nothing about it. Her divorce had been bad, so she thought maybe her ex was sneaking into the house to mess with her. But she wondered if maybe her dad, my grandpa, was making his presence known. We got to talking about other things, and she wanted to show me a new quilt she was making, so we headed back to a guest room. The house had three bedrooms, and my cousins were out of the house, so only my aunt & uncle lived there, and the other two rooms were for guests.

My aunt walked into the room ahead of me and screamed. She’d had three dolls sitting on pillows at the head of the bed (which I’d seen in previous visits). One doll was now face down in the middle of the bed. My aunt swore she’d been in the room the day before and everything was in order, and no one had been in the house until I visited. It was a little freaky!

My grandpa may have made other visits. Photos of me after my baptism were taken in a corner of my parents’ house. It was an assembly-line thing with each set of relatives holding me, then passing me over, all within a few minutes. In the photo with my grandmother and step-grandfather, there is a line of light over me, with two dark circles above my head. Yep…sort of like orbs. I want to scan some photos today or tomorrow….I’ll try to post it and see what you think.

When Gus was in the NICU, he would often look into the corner of the room and smile. He wasn’t staring vacantly; his eyes were focused, and it like he was watching something. We would joke that the angels were telling him funny baby jokes. I know kids will do that, but the weird thing is, he never did it once he was home, and Sanna never did it at all.

I do wonder if kids are more in-tuned to things. When Gus was about 2 1/2, I walked past his room one night and noticed he was still awake. I asked why he wasn’t sleeping and he said Grandpa Gus was talking to him. We don’t talk about my grandpa a lot; I never knew him and my mother has barely talked about him at all in my whole life. Gus knows he was named after someone, but we don’t even have photos of my grandpa around. A few months ago, Gus said, “Grandpa Sam talks to little Sam.” My six-year-old nephew is named after my other grandfather, who died 23 years ago. Again, not something we discuss in any detail!

One more strange thing with Gus. We go frequently go to a local, family-owned restaurant. If you go in the back, you go up a flight of stairs that are pretty basic…flat, brown carpet, cheap black metal railings, paneling on the walls. Again a few months ago, Gus & I were walking up and he said “This is like Grandma Fina’s house.” I actually burst into tears. My grandmother died a year before Gus was born, and the stairs up to her apartment looked nearly exactly like that. It’s not a place Gus had ever been, and I never even noticed the resemblance at the restaurant until Gus said it. Now that freaked the poop out of me!

When we were in Edinburgh, Scotland, on our honeymoon, we took a ghost tour. Edinburgh has an extensive underground tunnel system, where people lived during the plague, and medical students did experiements. In one room, the guide told us we should take photos because it was the most haunted place in Scotland. Back at the tour office, they had several binders of photos people took, and then noticed things in the background when they were developed. We took a few, but nothing showed up on ours.

So those are my brushes with the supernatural. Anyone else have a ghost story to share? Happy Halloween!


Healthy Halloween Food Spread

Every year, Ari’s school has a combination Halloween and Día de los muertos parade, in which the kids sing songs (in Spanish) and then parade around the school in their costumes. The festivities are then followed by a pot luck in each of the classrooms.

One of the moms at Ari’s class plans to bring these Halloween snacks, which I thought were so clever. Check them out:

She found them on this Disney website, which had all kinds of quick and easy recipes like “apple bites,” “carrot-finger food,” and “edible eyeballs.” She plans to bring the “ghost toasts,” which are ghost cut-outs of toasted bread, cream cheese and raisins for the eyes. The second dish, creepy cheese fingers, are simply cheese sticks with green bell pepper as finger nails. Use cream cheese as glue for the nails.

I plan to bring my regular fall dish: Aromatic Cuban White Bean and Pumpkin Stew, which I adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook.

IMHO, Jaffrey’s has the best veggie cookbook out there, and I use it more than any of my other cookbooks. But being Cuban, I had to give this dish a little more saborcito. Without further ado, here is my interpretation of the recipe:

Cuban Squash Stew
(2) 15oz cans of white kidney or cannellini beans
(1) butternut squash (the smallest you can find)
1 3/4 teaspoon of salt

sofrito sauce
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 poblano pepper, finely chopped
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro (tightly packed)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup or half a can of tomato sauce
6 manzanilla olives (This is optional. Put in as many or as little as you’d like. We love olives so I always put in a minimum of 6.)

Directions: Boil butternut squash to soften, peel, de-seed, and dice into 3/4-inch dice. You will make approximately 2 cups.

Boil the squash in 5 cups of water. Add beans from the can.

While the beans are cooking, prepare the sofrito, which by the way, I use as my base sauce for everything from beans to lasagna. Put the oil in a large frying and set it on medium-high heat. Put in the onion and garlic and stir and fry for a minute. Now put in the poblano pepper and cilantro, turn the heat down to medium and stir for a minute. Put in the cumin and stir once, then add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat to low and simmer very gently, stirring now and then, for 10 minutes.

Add the salt and the sofrito to the pot. Stir and bring to a simmer until all the flavors are blended. Enjoy!

I usually serve with white rice. But I will let the kids eat it like a soup, along with their ghost toasts. What are your favorite Halloween recipes?


Saturday Open Thread: Autumn Daze Edition

It’s the weekend, y’all! And fall is in full swing.

What’s your favorite autumn ritual? Mine is visiting a pumpkin patch, and this year we got to do it with our two little sweeties for the first time.

I LOVE this time of year. I adore Halloween and am super psyched for Alex’s first holiday season. Costumes are chosen, pumpkins are picked and the weather is lovely. What more could I ask for?

I will say I am a little low on energy this year. Our good friends throw a kids’ Halloween party every year and DH and I are usually among the few adults that dress up. The party is tomorrow and Maya will be Jessie from Toy Story, Alex will be a monkey and Tyler and I will be slightly frazzled but happy parents.

What are your kids dressing up as? Will YOU dress up? Do tell!

What’s everyone up to this weekend? Chat away!