Monthly Archives: October 2011

What to Do about Halloween

It’s here.  Let the merriment commence.  Ghosts and goblins and jack-o-lanterns.  Innocent childhood fun and yummy treats.

Oh, wait.  That was before.  Halloween in the modern era is no longer innocent, and child-generated fun is prohibited.  Every year I get more and more disgusted with Halloween, from the trashy costumes to the parental paranoia.  Lately I am favoring the Halloween Scrooge attitude of leaving the porch light off and ignoring the door bell.  I came by this gradually.  Trick-or-treating, cool costumes, and pumpkin carving used to be part of the routine, in spite of my own personal dislike of the holiday and all of its fuss and bother.

But then Halloween began to change.  Costumes got downright distasteful.  Parents actually have no trouble with their daughters parading around in this

  or this 

Parents got too involved.  In my neighborhood, parents decided some years ago to set up tables in each cul-de-sac with folks distributing candy.  All kids have to do is work their way down the table.  I guess the plus side of this is that you avoid kids trampling your flower beds, and the dog doesn’t go crazy over constant doorbell ringing.  However, it also eliminates the “Trick-or-treat!”  And what’s the point of all the spooky yard decorations if no one approaches your house?  Even worse are the “trunk or treat” events.  Trick-or-treating in a parking lot just kills the spirit of the holiday.  And all of the hysteria about poisoned treats and sex offenders on the loose is just another example of helicopter parents running amuck.

I’ve developed some rules for Halloween.  Some day, due to my incredible readership (LOL), folks will return Halloween to its former glory days.

  1. If your child has not yet learned to walk, he or she is too young for trick-or-treating.  Strollers and wagons to get your kids around the block are a no-no.  I don’t care how cute the infant costumes are.
  2. If your child is of an age in which all Halloween treats pose a choking hazard, he or she is too young to trick-or-treat.  A few years ago, when our neighborhood was loaded with pre-schoolers, I caved and handed out mini Play-Doh.  I resented it the whole evening, since I was left with a bowl full of Play-Doh instead of Peanut M&Ms.
  3. Parents should not carry their child’s treat bag if he complains that it’s too heavy.  That means it is time to go home ’cause he has collected too much loot.  Never, ever bring a second treat bag!
  4. Kids who stick their hands right into my bowl of candy as soon as the door opens get a little lecture about good manners and greediness before they get their treat.
  5. Do not bring your dog along while trick-or-treating.  Some children afraid of dogs, no matter how friendly you think your pet is.  And are you really going to clean up after your dog and carry the treat bag at the same time?  I didn’t think so.
  6. Let’s all just agree that some candies should never be given out.  No one actually likes them.  These include, but are not limited to Good & Plenty, Bit-O-Honey, fruit-flavored Tootsie Rolls, no-name hard candy (excluding Life Savers and Jolly Ranchers), candy corn, and anything with the texture of chalk.

I’m sure by this time tomorrow, I will have another half-dozen rules to add to my list.  In a society that sanctions dressing up 9-year-olds as witch or pirate prostitutes, you will never get to the point at which you’ve seen it all.

 

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Don’t Blink–It’s October!!

You might miss it if you blink!!  At least that’s how I feel.  I know it’s bad when WordPress needs me to log in again.  It has been so long that it doesn’t even remember me.  I check my post listing and see that I have a grand total of 2 for the month, which will be over in 4 days.

I love fall.  I can’t wait to open all the windows to let some fresh, not-humid air in the house.  I love having to throw on a sweater because there is just a hint of chill in the air.  Who can resist the beauty of autumn foliage?  OK.  I admit I had a love-hate relationship with the leaves during our short stay in New England.  As lovely as the leaves were, they were also a nightmare to deal with in the yard and the gutters of the house.  Nevertheless.

The crazy thing about fall is that it is over almost before it begins.  All of those cozy fall sweaters are on clearance in the stores already, and the only ones left are the sizes no one can wear or the itchy ones.  Thank you Macy’s for putting up your Christmas decorations 2 weeks ago!!  Target displays Halloween costumes and Christmas lights at the same time.  Yes, that’s the old curmudgeon in me complaining about the hurry-up-and-get-to-Christmas mentality of retailers, again.  (Here was last year’s rant thoughtful post on the subject.)  The problem for me, though, is that there is so much else going on in life at this time of year that I hardly need retailers to accelerate the pace any more.

In September, the school year seems fresh and orderly.  The textbooks are new and interesting.  Everyone’s outlook is positive.  Come October, though, some panic sets in.  The 8-week mark comes and goes, and it occurs to the kids–and me–that, “Crap!  We need to step up the pace or we will end up just like last year!”  Maybe a Columbus Day holiday wasn’t such a good idea.  Maybe we had better plan on a working Thanksgiving.

And having a high school senior is a game-changer.  All of a sudden, the frenzy to get to Christmas is all too real.  That’s because all of the college applications are due by January 1st.  So in addition to the regular school workload, SuzyQ has to squeeze in writing essays for each application, crafting a student resume, tracking down teachers to write letters of recommendation, finishing up standardized testing, and I must be forgetting something else.  Nothing new here, I know.  Seniors have been dealing with this for years.  Doesn’t make it any easier, though; and somehow the time slips away no matter how well you think you have planned.

That’s just the regular stuff.  When you add in extracurriculars, life starts feeling a bit like the Teacup Ride.  Chorus ramps up rehearsals for the holiday season concerts.  Homecoming and college reunion eat up a weekend (in a good way!).  My snow bird in-laws decide to stop by on their way South for the winter:  that means a cleaning frenzy.  And there’s garden clean-up (mine and/or my parents depending on how many hours I can find to do it), lawn treatment for fall (Is it weed and feed or just feed?), sudden pet illnesses, and Junior outgrew all of his pants.

What?! It’s November next week?  I guess I better start making room in the freezer and refrigerator for a turkey.  I did notice the massive display of Thanksgiving Dinner foods in my local grocery store last week.  Has the big sale on turkeys come and gone, too?

Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of hyper-ventilating our way from October to January, we could all just enjoy the scenery of fall?  Autumn leaves, sweaters, hot chocolate, afghans, coziness–that is fall, right?  Just sayin’.

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Better I Should Have Stood in Bed

Some days, a Yiddishism is completely appropriate.  Yesterday was one of those days.  I don’t believe God sends individuals small punishments throughout the day.  He allowed Job to be worked over pretty good, but even that wasn’t punishment.  I do believe that God sends us messages in various forms.  And usually, we miss them.  I’m still trying to figure out what He was trying to tell me yesterday:

  • On my way to do my massive monthly grocery shopping, I get stopped at the  draw bridge.  This is a regular occurrence, so I settle in and listen to some talk radio.  A sailboat goes by and a small yacht.  I see the bridge return to its normal position.  But the gates never open, and the traffic signal alternates between red and yellow instead of changing to solid green.  I give it 15 minutes and then give up on the stuck gates.  Turning around and using an alternate route adds another 10 minutes to the trip to the commissary (military grocery store, for those unfamiliar with the term), which already takes 30 minutes on an average day.
  • The commissary is out of the new cereal the kids have been begging me to locate.  It’s an obscure bargain brand version of Lucky Charms but slightly more nutritious.  Anyway, I had it on good authority that I could find a shelf full of the stuff there.  By the time I arrive, however, the gaping empty space on said shelf puts me in mind of old communist Poland days: bread lines, empty stores with only the damaged or spoiled goods remaining.  Really?!  A run on off-brand cereal??  I decide against adding the last, crushed box to my cart.
  • The fire alarm sounds, causing the building to be evacuated just when I am in the home stretch of my epic shopping trip.  You just can’t make this stuff up.  All I have left to add to my cart are dairy items and frozen foods, and I have to leave it all there to spend 20 minutes in the parking lot while the fire department arrives and inspects the building.  Who are the first people out of this potentially “burning building?”  The cashiers and baggers.  They just drop everything and head for the doors.  So do the employees in the stockrooms.  The customers throughout the store, however, are left looking around and asking one another what’s going on.  Apparently, employees of my local commissary are not instructed to help customers in the event of an emergency.  Nope.  Their motto must be: “It’s every man for himself.”
  • The dog chooses the exact moment after I had unloaded the car of groceries and was relaxing for a moment before starting dinner to vomit on the carpet.  Dog barf and light beige carpet is a marriage made to last forever.  (I discussed the folly of pets and carpet here.)  I have cycled through Nature’s Miracle and Folex, but I still have faint yet noticeable spots.

Yep.  A gem of a day for the Uncommonhousewife, complete with flashing lights, sirens, and barf.  Yet no one got hurt, and there was still food to put on the table in spite of a seemingly diabolical effort to keep me from grocery shopping.  Was my message yesterday simply a reminder to count my blessings?  Or maybe God was trying to tell me to slow down, be a little more patient, or maybe shop more often than once a month.  If you figure it out, let me know.  I’ll be here, scrubbing the carpet and trying to fit a month’s worth of groceries in my pantry.

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Cleaning Tips from the Uncommonhousewife

As a housewife, I am probably supposed to be fairly adept at housekeeping.  You might be a little surprised to learn, however, that I actually stink at it.  My best cleaning happens when the arrival of guests is imminent.  Otherwise, the kitchen and bathrooms stay sanitary, and beds get made, and the floors are kept reasonably clean.  I should dust more often, but I hate doing it.  Window washing?  Yeah, right.  And we are never clutter-free.

This time of year feels right for cleaning, though.  All of a sudden, I can open the windows and let fresh air blow away the dog smells and laundry funk that collects when the A/C runs constantly.  It’s time to put away the collection of flip-flops and sunscreen bottles that are left about in easy-to-grab places.  Some people call it fall nesting.  I just think of it as an opportunity to take care of chores neglected when it was 90+ degrees for months at a time.

I do not claim to be a Heloise, a Martha Stewart, or cleaning and organizing blogger extraordinaire.  I have, however, compiled a short list of advice about cleaning, acquired over my many years of maintaining a barely passably clean home.

  1. To properly clean window blinds, remove them from the brackets and…toss them directly into the trash can.  Let’s face it.  Blinds, especially, mini-blinds cannot be kept entirely clean.  Period.  Yes, you can turn the slats this way and that to dust them, but this must be done gently so as not to bend or break them.  What happens if, let’s say just hypothetically, your blinds are shellacked with the dog drool that goes flying every time your beloved pet shakes his head?  What if, again completely hypothetical here, the faux-wood blinds in your kitchen are coated with a hefty layer of grease and just might smell vaguely of bacon?  Homekeeping experts will tell you that you simply need to remove the blinds and soak them in a bathtub filled with cleaning solution, swishing them back and forth a few times.  Easy, right?  This is dog drool we’re talking about, not cobwebs and baby powder.  And did you ever try to towel off a set of blinds, or hang them somewhere to drip-dry??  Really, once they get so filthy you can’t stand it, replace them with something–anything–else.
  2. Bleach will never smell like anything besides bleach.  There is no such thing as Spring Fresh or Citrus Breeze bleach.  Straight out of the jug or mixed in with other spray cleaners, bleach cannot be camouflaged.  So get ready to suffer a condition I call “bleach head.”  After you have been confined in the shower with bleach fumes for even a few minutes, you will lose your ability to smell anything else, and your sinuses will sort of throb.  It’s not painful, nor is it permanent.  But for an hour or so after exposure, you will feel as though your head has swelled to 3 times its normal size.
  3. Pets are the domestic enemy of housekeeping.  There is not a vacuum cleaner or lint roller on earth that can remove cat hair from floors and furniture completely.  Wet dog nose prints will reappear as soon as you’ve cleaned them from floors, windows, and door knobs.  If you have pets, your home will never be spotless.
  4. Still on the topic of pets, if you have them, reconsider carpeting.  Some primal instinct in cats directs them to seek out carpet when they feel an attack of hairball coming on.  I’ve seen this with my own eyes.  And dog paws will always leave dirty tracks on your carpet, no matter how well you think you have cleaned them.  You can train your dog to wait patiently by the door while you scrub his paws with a strategically placed beach towel–hypothetically again–and still you will acquire a traffic pattern on your carpet particular to your dog.
  5. Kids.  We all know I could just leave it at that.  Every age and every stage of childhood comes with its own cleaning challenges.  Teenagers, who are perfectly capable or completing any cleaning task on their own, are…well…deficient.  Some may clean their rooms upon request or do the chore you nag them about.  Left to their own devices, though, teens have about the same impact on housekeeping as toddlers.  They are always and everywhere eating.  They have way too much stuff to keep track of; and they will take and lose your car keys.

So there you have it.  That’s my best advice on housekeeping.  In summary: put it off until you can’t stand it anymore; toss out anything that’s too complicated to clean; give up if you have pets or kids.

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