Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

Being white.

White. I am white. I am a part of a demographic representing privilege and affluence based upon the color of my skin. I did nothing to earn this privilege yet I have been blessed with DNA that colors me pasty white in the winter, tomato red in the summer, and up until recently, oblivious to the racism in this country. I can walk into a store, shop, and leave without anyone suspecting I am up to no good. I can walk down the street and not have to worry about getting questioned about why I am there and where am I headed. These are the simple facts of my life. I am also a woman, so I’ve spent a good portion of my life avoiding situations and people that may put me in a position to be assaulted. I was mindful of my alcohol consumption in college and took taxis home from parties because I didn’t trust that my “safe” ride home wouldn’t try to rape me. I’ve paid close attention to my gut feeling and have left dates, rooms, cars, etc. to avoid bad situations. And I’ve had to teach my daughter to be perceptive,wary and to listen to her own gut when it comes to being female. Those lessons started when she was three.

I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to be mindful of my privilege. I have wedged my foot down my throat more times than I care to admit while trying to navigate discussions about race. I’ve claimed I was colorblind before I learned that isn’t possible and to say as much is downright offensive. I’ve apologized for using the term “sexual preference” with a lesbian when referring to the LGBT community, when I know, KNOW! that being gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. isn’t a choice or a preference. I’ve tripped over the terms black, Mexican, even Jew, with blacks, Mexicans and Jews, because there was a time when I didn’t know if those words were derogatory or not. They aren’t by the way. I’ve danced around discussions about race, been fearful about offending people, and have let that fear inhibit me from speaking freely and asking questions. But over the years, I have worked on kicking that fear. I now ask questions, I own my mistakes, and I look for opportunities to talk to my kids and people of color about race and their experience as much as possible so I can learn.

I live in a bubble of progressive elites. My town is clean, safe, diverse and full of thoughtful, educated people, and it will probably stay that way, even through four years of Trump. It would be easy for me to ignore the blatant hate, to avoid discussing race, to hide in the safety of my community and hope that the racism and sexism are just going to clear up and go away through the work and grace of others. But it’s not that simple. I can no longer assume that we are making progress on these issues. My awareness of privilege is nothing new, but in light of the rise of hate post election, it is now my responsibility to help fix the problem, because I am white—because for so long my skin color shielded me from the issue, and I could remain ignorant of the subversive hate around me. But I can’t pretend this shift towards anger and darkness isn’t my problem. To remain complacent and inactive means to accept this new reality, and I simply can’t do that. So I will continue to talk to my kids, and take risks with my dialogue and occasionally shove my foot down my throat as I navigate the lessons about what it means to be an ally, and what it means to raise allies, and what it means to fight back against this racist, sexist world.



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The Decision to Work

I never felt I made a very good stay-at-home mom. My idle hands and mind crave deadlines, accountability and lots of social interaction. I am reminded of this every time I have a few days at home by myself or when I have been in between jobs. The first few days function like a water faucet, filling up my emotional and physical energy depleted from running around like a crazed superwoman short on time. But once I’ve had my fill of solitude, the quiet settles around me, heavily. I don’t enjoy the stillness in my mind, wonder what everyone else is accomplishing and assume that while they are out creating very important documents for very important people and curing cancer and saving the world and educating kids and laughing and enjoying themselves, I am home, with my forehead pressed against the sliding glass door, questioning my purpose in life. Those voices in my head that come out around day three of quietude and pester me about my existence? Yeah, they can be mean.

Between the time Lennon was an infant until he was three years old, I stayed home with him off and on, and honestly, I was terrible at the job. Lennon was bored, and I was bored. Even when I structured and scheduled out the day and signed him up for art and gymnastic classes and sought out play dates and remained vigilantly on the look out for massive and enthralling road and building work where we could gawk at backhoes like construction groupies, I still pined for 5:00 p.m. and my hubby to come home. I knew exactly how long it would take Scott to drive from his office to the house, and if he hadn’t arrived by 5:15 p.m. I was on the phone, crankily demanding an ETA. The mornings when I called him at work before 8:30 a.m. desperate to know how I was going to make it through the day are not what I consider highlights of my parenting career.

I really wanted to feel fulfilled staying home, but I never felt at ease in the role of a stay-at-home mom. By the time Calla was born, I had already tried various combinations of work and staying home, and I had determined, that for the sake of my sanity and our pocket book, it would be best if I headed back to work full time.

Fortunately, my kids love going to school. They spend their days with teachers who enjoy teaching them about things like the lifespan of a whale, and painting water-colored sunflowers and singing songs, and socializing with their friends. I think one of the best things I have ever done for my kids was to be honest about my need to work full time, and to acknowledge my limitations as a parent, and to be okay with calling upon the help of loving and caring teachers who have been thrilled at the idea of spending their days crawling around on the floor with my kids.

As much as I am at peace with my choice, or as much peace as I can possibly be in this society of guilty parenting, I still second guess myself regularly. Especially when a well-meaning parent raises her eyebrow about the amount of time my kids spend in after school care each day and launch questions at me, like when will they have time to study the violin or piano. And to this I say, three things: first, my kids don’t play the violin or piano, nor do I expect them to start anytime soon. Second, they take their lessons when we get home from work, and so far, that seems to work for us. Third, us mommies, we need to stick together and be supportive of the choices we make or are forced to make with our lives and our kids. There is no perfect parenting environment that fits for everyone. What works for one family isn’t necessarily going to work for another, so let’s be mindful and kind to each other.

I have spent the last seven years refocusing my career so I can work normal hours in an environment that is flexible and allows me to chaperone field trips and attend school events when they arise, and I have come to realize that I am a better mother when I balance my life with a career. A dear friend of mine realized she needed to quit her job to be home full time with her kids. Both decisions were difficult to make, and both are equally right.

I had a hard time trying to decide what sort of recipe to include in this post, but I think the most appropriate option for a piece like this is to just encourage take-out. On the toughest of days, a local restaurant can be the best friend of working and stay-at-home moms alike.

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Last weekend, Kiddo #2 helped me make dinner. She was helpful and engaged. She stirred the sauce, poured and mixed ingredients and pressed up right.next.to.me. while I chopped and diced. I did my best to breathe deeply, let her have fun and not micro manage her when she sploshed sauce over the side of the sauce pan. She did great, and I twitched a lot, forced myself to refrain from making snappy comments and just let her be a part of my kitchen.

I am trying to cultivate more patience with my kids when they help me cook. I wish I didn’t care when floors and clothes got wet, or dirty or covered in paint or tomato sauce, but the wiring in my brain that gives me the patience to be crafty and focused with children is faulty. I have a tendency to short circuit and get bossy easily and say things like, “give me that,” and “let me do it.” I like my cupcakes to look pretty instead of smooshed, I hate picking up bits of paper and glitter off the floor, and I don’t like cleaning paint or glue off my or my kids’ fingers. I avoid most art projects that involve moisture and colors that stain and schedule activities that don’t involve scrubbing hands and faces afterward.

My aversion to messes doesn’t spill over into other areas of the house. I don’t seem to have a problem with piles of papers or clothes. I am not even all that bothered by clutter although I am definitely neater now that we have kids. But I can’t seem to handle wet gloppy kid messes. Even as a kid I didn’t like getting my hands sticky, though I did love to play with flour. I love how soft and cool flour feels while sifting through my fingers–until it turns into a wet gummy paste and then flour is quickly added to the icky list.

I want to let the kids slop on the frosting when decorating cupcakes and not feel my body tense up when they accidentally dump glittery sprinkles onto the floor. My kids have aprons they can wear, and I have a powerful vacuum and a Costco supply of sponges. We spend a lot of time in our kitchen, so I need to be able to teach my kids to cook while refraining from snatching items from their hands when they threaten to pour the entire contents into a dish. How bad could three extra tablespoons of oregano be in a pasta sauce? Apparently, we won’t be finding out because no matter how hard I try to contain my mild obsessive compulsive perfectionist tendencies, I end up hovering over my children, futzing and clucking while I attempt to keep spills to a minimum.

Scott has much more patience with the kids in the kitchen than I. I could leave the impromptu kiddo kitchen classes to him, but that just feels like I am giving up on my kids and myself. I don’t want to miss out on helping them grow up around the chopping block and stove. It would be easier to shoo my kids out of the kitchen and cook by myself instead of slowing down and taking the time to teach them how to chop vegetables and create meals. With limited time to wedge chores, fun, classes, homework, baths, sports and dinner into an already packed evening or weekend, I find it hard to slow my brain down to the speed of my five-year-old. I like to be quick, precise, efficient and focused when attempting to get a meal on the table in under 30 minutes. That said, it isn’t fair of me to deny them the opportunity to experience cooking and make mistakes in the kitchen.

Despite my desire to cook by myself last weekend, I worked really hard at maintaining patience so Kiddo #2 could enjoy herself and feel welcomed. I had to quietly tell myself to slow down a few times, which definitely helped me keep focused on her experience and remain calm. I had to remind myself that a spill can be wiped up easily and hands are super easy to rinse off. And even a less than tasty meal is only a minor inconvenience. I am trying to keep my kids’ kitchen failures in perspective. I expect as my kids grow older and maintain better control of their hands and are less likely to push half of dinner out of the pan and onto the stove, I will feel more comfortable cooking with them. In the meantime, I plan to keep inviting them into the kitchen no matter how much my body involuntarily lunges forward to prevent potential mistakes. I will cut myself a break though, and let them do the gloppy art projects at school.

Below is my stuffed shells recipe. The vegan ricotta involves smooshing your hands into the tofu to get it the right consistency. It’s a great recipe for kids to help make– and a task I much prefer to let them handle.

Stuffed Shells
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
-Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Once the water starts boiling, add in an entire box of jumbo pasta shells.
-While you are waiting for the water to boil and shells to cook, begin making the tomato sauce and tofu ricotta.

Tomato sauce ingredients:
2 large cans of crushed tomatoes
1 tablespoon of olive oil
5-6 cloves of minced garlic
1 tablespoon of oregano
1 tablespoon of dried basil or a small handful of fresh leaves that your kiddo harvested from your garden
6-7 good cranks of the pepper grinder
Salt to taste

Armed with her trusty pair of kid-friendly craft scissors…

…there was no reason she couldn’t tame the bolting basil herself.

Sauce directions:
-Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large sauce pan
-Add the garlic
-Saute until the garlic has turned golden
-Add the two cans of tomatoes to the garlic (give the can opener to your kid and see if he/she can open it on their own) and the rest of the ingredients and simmer on low

While the sauce is simmering, start making the tofu ricotta. This can also be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge.

She started off thinking it would be fun to stick her hands into a bowl of squishy tofu.

But her face quickly proved that she loves sticky, messy fingers about as much as I do.

Tofu ricotta ingredients:
1 block of firm tofu, mashed by little hands if you have an extra pair living in the house
½ to ⅔ cups of Veganaise
2 tablespoons dried or fresh dill
2 teaspoons fresh basil (leftover from the earlier harvest)
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
½ teaspoon pepper
salt to taste

Ricotta directions:
-Mash the tofu into a large bowl until it is a crumbly and mushy
-Add all the ricotta ingredients and stir well until it begins to resemble the consistency of ricotta
-Adjust seasonings to taste

-Once everything is ready, take a large casserole dish and scoop a few heaping spoonfuls of sauce into the bottom and spread evenly.
-Take a large soup spoon and stuff each shell full of the tofu ricotta.
-When you have snuggly filled the casserole dish with stuffed shells, cover the shells with the remaining tomato sauce.
-Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling up on the sides and the filling is heated through.
-Serve with homemade garlic bread and a huge tossed salad.

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Last Thursday, Calla suggested we eat snacks for dinner. Her menu included soy yogurt, ice cream, spring rolls and Popsicles. Lennon requested Costco-style “samples” and dim sum. I didn’t feel like cooking a full meal and neither Scott nor I were interested in the remaining items on our weekly menu. He had eaten Asian food for lunch and didn’t want stir fry, and I had eaten a burrito and didn’t want Mexican. We weren’t able to find cilantro at the Farmer’s Market so fresh spring roll salad with a peanut sauce dressing was off the menu and Falafel would take too long.

After a week of crazy deadlines, skipped lunches at work and general heat malaise, I was feeling a lack of motivation and desire to enter the kitchen. Grabbing a recipe book for last minute dinner ideas wasn’t going to happen. I liked Calla’s idea of snacks for dinner, with some healthy modifications, of course.

Calla wasn’t happy that I changed up her menu. There was some compromising from me and lots of whining from her. I eliminated all the desserts, which basically left the spring rolls. I pulled out some hummus, leftover tofu ricotta from a stuffed shells recipe earlier in the week, carrots, celery, raw broccoli and marinated tofu and put together a veggie platter. I heated up the leftover pasta sauce and threw in a handful of frozen veggie meatballs, microwaved some cashew cream cheesy sauce leftover from a macaroni and cheese casserole from earlier in the week and assembled a couple of sandwiches which I cut into quarters. And I heated up a bagful of those awesome frozen vegetarian spring rolls from Costco–snacks and dim sum all in one. A container of seaweed salad, which Lennon deemed, “too chewy,” rounded out the meal.

Snacks for dinner wasn’t bad. It wasn’t great either, but I’ve been trying to be better about using up the leftovers in our fridge. I can’t say the fusion of Italian, Asian and hummus felt particularly awesome in my stomach, but for dinner on the table in 25 minutes after a long day, a much needed clearing out of the fridge, and a win for the kiddo who suggested the idea in the first place, snacks for dinner served its purpose.

Snack managers surveying the samples.

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I’ve lost my spine. I was the girl who used to jump off 50 foot cliffs, ride roller coasters for the adrenaline rush and surf in the washing machine waves off the coast of Santa Cruz. Now I am just a middle-aged mommy wuss. While on vacation I took Lennon body surfing. He loved it. I thought it was pretty great too until a wave ground my body into the unforgiving shore and left sand imprints and bruises all over me. While I churned in the waves, the thought of my seven-year-old getting just as pounded forced my heart to drop a couple of feet into my knees. He was fine and loved the rough action of the waves. I got all motherly, gave a quick lecture on waves, rip tides, never turning your back on the ocean, blah, blah, safety, boring mother rambling on about something (insert the sounds of Charlie Brown’s teacher’s voice here) and then suggested we hang out in the pool for a bit. He promptly declined my offer.

I had hoped my spine hadn’t completely turned to mush, but I know it began going soft a couple years ago when I rode California Screamin’ with Scott and his cousin Ami at Disney California Adventure. She’s my age and single with no kids. She was thrilled by the rush of the roller coaster, five gazillion loops and those horrible stomach lurching death drops into a hellish abyss. I was not. I prayed out loud, a lot, and cursed, a lot. I remember tearing up with relief when the ride finally ended. I crawled out of the car with sweaty palms, feet and my stomach trying to decide what exactly to do with my lunch. The guy I spoke with afterward who gave me a medical understanding of what the brain experiences on a roller coaster didn’t help my recovery either.

When I was younger, I swore I would never lose my spine for all things exhilarating. I would jump off cliffs just to mess with the head of my boyfriend who was afraid of heights but still felt compelled to jump if I did. I am sure he would enjoy knowing I was getting my karmic justice now. I blame motherhood. I never expected having kids would turn me into a bowl of mealy oatmeal.

I wish I could say I was carefree and relaxed about parenting and exposing my kids to adventurous situations, but I struggle with the idea of letting them experience life on their own. I battle my over-protective demons every single day, try to keep my mouth shut about the little dangers and save the lectures for the big ones. Lennon is getting to the age where he is going to start filtering my warnings, so I need to pick my freak outs carefully. Do I warn him about the slippery, muddy trail that he insists on running down? Sure, but I will try to limit my comments to just once in the beginning of the hike because when he lands hard on his bottom, the mud and bruises aren’t going to kill him. The fall may even teach him to be careful more than my yelps down the trail at him to “slow down!” Do I give him the “respect the ocean” speech and go swimming with him in the waves so his tiny 48 pound body doesn’t get pulled out to sea? Absolutely.

I couldn't have kept up with him on the trails, and yes, I tried.

He wore his mud stains well and with pride.

I know that just because I can’t seem to stomach the adrenaline rush anymore doesn’t mean I should encourage my children to live bland lives. Though the thought of my children jumping into crashing waves off a cliff into the ocean and getting sucked down and disappearing into a cauldron like we witnessed a few local boys do last week makes my whole body quease up–the part where we wouldn’t be able to save those boys should a rogue wave knock them out was particularly painful to watch. Adventure is good, but pushing the limits of life and death, not so much. I need to help my kids discern which is which and then trust that as they get older, they will make the RIGHT, I mean, mindful choices.

After a great deal of prodding from Lennon and some pointed looks from Scott, I toughened up and went back out into the waves and by the end of the trip, I was able to enjoy the ocean with my kid instead of constantly fearing his demise. I realized that the presence of the boogie boards we rented on the last day functioned a bit like an ocean security blanket for me. My reacquainting with the ocean and Lennon’s three days of experience navigating the waves definitely helped. Plus, we weren’t by ourselves on a remote lava shelf jumping into a churning cauldron of death. If something had happened, my chances of saving Lennon or finding someone who could were pretty great. Ironically, watching those boys jumping off that cliff helped me put body surfing on a relatively mild beach in front of a hotel into perspective.

As our kids get older, we will introduce more adventure into their lives. I am looking forward to 10 years from now when we can take them on the Napali Coast Kayak trip, and in the meantime, I will work at using those adventures as exercises to build up the muscles surrounding my soft spine. Perhaps some smaller adventures will keep it from atrophying altogether.

In the spirit of mush, I am re-posting a recipe for oatmeal but with some new toppings. My kids eat oatmeal all year long and since we recently visited Hawaii and already miss the tropical fruit, I suggest throwing in some fresh banana, brown sugar and topping it with chopped pineapple and toasted coconut. See, even oatmeal can be adventurous sometimes.

Homemade Oatmeal (Total cook time is 10-15 minutes.)
-Add about a cup and a half of soymilk to a cast iron pan.
-Add in thick cut oats by the handful until they just begin to reach the top of the milk.
-Add a couple of dashes of cinnamon.
-Add a pinch or two of salt.
-Heat until the soymilk starts to boil around the edges, then drop to a medium simmer.
-Stir frequently as the milk begins to cook down and the oatmeal thickens. You want to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. My kids like their oatmeal slightly chewy so adjust the milk and simmer down to desired thickness.
-When the consistency is right (there really is no science to oatmeal), remove from heat and add chopped pineapple, shredded, toasted coconut, brown sugar, bananas and a touch more milk if you like.
-Serve with a side of toast and lilikoi jelly.

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Chanukah came early this year, and it forced me to fully acknowledge the impending holidays well before Thanksgiving. Our family celebrates both Chanukah and Christmas, and not because we are full of holiday cheer. My hubby Scott and I decided early in our relationship that we wouldn’t deny the other’s culture for the sake of ease, though, before we had kids, it was fairly easy to celebrate both holidays. I would spend 20 minutes putting up our mini wrought-iron tree, and he pulled out a menorah. Done. We bought gifts for family, and made jam, candles, or some other crafty treat. We always had an invite to the parental abode so we never had to host the holidays ourselves. We could act grumpy, feign mild interest in the holidays and nobody cared about our bad attitudes.

Now we have kids. Kids + holidays = game changer. Kids magnify our own childhood memories and with that comes the desire to create new memories. We want to share our holiday experiences with them, and that means actually lighting all eight candles, decorating a tree, and using project management skills to organize for a holiday season that I used to, for the most part, ignore. Now, I create a Google Doc that I share online with Scott, deny the financial reality of January, and spend the rest of December trying to make sure I am not slighting either holiday or child.

Every year we begin the holiday discussion roughly around September. I make some grand declaration about saving money and keeping the holiday consumption within reason by shopping sales and making gifts. We have a jovial debate (out of earshot from our holiday-loving kids of course) about whether or not we should even decorate a tree and put up the house lights. Ironically, the discussion ends with my Jewish hubby making the final argument in favor of some decorations. I uphold my tradition of swearing to have a small, homemade, quiet Christmas, and then sometime about mid-December, we morph into these shopping sprites, jittery from lack of spending, and starry-eyed over sparkly online deals. I decide we don’t have the right balance of toys for each holiday, re-read and reorganize my spreadsheet, run out to buy more items, dig everything out of the back of the closet with the help of my headlamp, sort through the piles of gifts, and wrap everything in color-coded wrapping paper (blue and white for Chanukah, and green and red for Christmas). I worry there aren’t enough gifts, and then, when we combine our loot with presents from the rest of the family, I realize we’ve purchased too much and end up saying to Scott, “Next year we are toning it down.” He looks at me, shakes his head, and says something like, “Yeah, good luck with that.”

I do love the coziness of Christmas Eve. I like singing Christmas carols with my sister in the kitchen as we make dinner, following the NORAD Santa tracker on the laptop, and opening gifts with my parents early Christmas morning. I love playing Santa and staying up late to stuff stockings and build toys. I love making latkes with my in-laws and the way our fully lit menorah looks while flickering in the window. I LOVE watching my kids’ faces when they discover presents sitting on the fireplace and under the tree in the morning. All of those moments balance out my manic spreadsheet management, the stress of dual holiday celebrations, and concerns about credit debt.

After my failed attempt at Halloween crafts this year, the kids and I tried again and spent an afternoon making dough ornaments for family and friends. I think we all had fun rolling dough and playing with paint. The dough tastes foul so I definitely would refrain from trying it though it shouldn’t hurt your kids if they feel so inclined.

This craft project was much more fun than making construction paper chains for the tree last year.

Classic Salt Dough Ornament Recipe*

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 cup water

1. Mix the salt and flour.
2. Add in half of the water, then gradually add the remaining water.
3. Knead until the dough is smooth, this can take up to 10 minutes. You may need to add more flour to get a smooth consistency.
4. For flat dough ornaments roll out the dough on a sheet of parchment paper.
5. Use cookie cutters, cut-out templates, or just use your hands to make shapes.
6. Dust the dough with flour, add details to the ornaments with a toothpick, popsicle stick, and/or knife.
7. Use a toothpick/straw to make a hole so you can hang the ornament, or press an ornament hook into the back before baking. If you forget the hole, you can always drill a small one later.
8. Set the oven to 325 degrees and bake for 1 1/2 hours or until the ornaments are dry. Time may vary based on the thickness of the ornament.

Let the ornaments cool before you begin decorating. Paint with acrylic paints. Let dry and then to preserve, coat with acrylic varnish (Modge Podge works just fine) when the paint is dry. Glue on beads, buttons, googly eyes, puff balls, and pipe cleaners.

Ornament Ideas:
Turtles (use walnut shell for back, stuff with dough, add feet, a head and tail)
“Holiday words” (e.g., Joy)
Shapes (circles, squares, hearts, wreaths, cubes) – Painted or decorate with hand prints, year, names, faces, etc.
Sports stuff (balls, bats)

*Thanks to my friend Julie for the recipe and creative ideas.

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I’ve never been a real fan of Halloween—particularly the dressing up and decorating part. If my grandmother were still alive to read these words, she would don her witch costume, add a nasty wart to her nose, and hobble around behind my back mumbling curses for speaking ill of her favorite day. I do love annual visits to Cool Patch and wandering through the acres of pumpkins. Except for my father-in-law who was a little grossed out by climbing into a pile of dried kernels, how can you not love a good roll through a corn bath?

Every child should be buried in corn at least once. Never mind that kernels end up all over your bathroom floor hours later.

I am sure my apathy for the day stems from the lackluster Halloweens of my childhood. Like most children, I expected lots of loot from my neighbors. We were the only children living at the end of a country dirt road and should have known better than to try and trick-or-treat. None of our neighbors expected us kids to brave the potholes in the dark and knock on their doors. The results were always disastrous. One particularly awful year yielded a mini Almond Joy (I hated coconuts and chocolate together), two stale Chips Ahoy cookies, a box of raisins, and a dime. For an eight year old, that’s a tragic haul.

As a parent, (particularly one who over thinks things and puts unnecessary pressure on herself to live up to the expectations created in her head) I had an irrational, preconceived idea of what makes a good Halloween and what makes a bad one. Homemade costumes, festively decorated house, and construction paper pumpkins = good. Store-bought costumes and minimal decorations = bad. It doesn’t help that our town is teaming with families who decorate their front walks with lights and fake spider webs. Construction paper jack-o-lanterns and witches jeer through their windows like little signs of art project success.

In an effort to live up to my expectations, I picked the kids up early from school. I figured we could bake cupcakes and create Halloween artwork—you know, do the same things as the perfect moms in my mind. After tracing a witch and pumpkin scene for Calla to color in, she flipped over the paper and drew her own people with a red marker. Lennon couldn’t be bothered with making anything. My kids didn’t want to make pictures for Halloween, and I felt relieved at their lack of care for holiday crafts. I expect they will have many expectations that I will fail at fulfilling as they grow older. Fortunately, decorating the house into a holiday extravaganza isn’t one of them.

In the end, I decorated a bit. It took me all of fifteen painless minutes to gather together our random Halloween items and rearrange our pumpkins on the front porch. I collected our black velvet spider web from the work bench and hung it in our front window, set out a tin witch and pumpkin cookie jar on the dining room table, and placed Lennon’s nasty, overgrown spider as the gate keeper to the fireplace.

I may feel apathetic toward the Halloween, but this year I realized I don’t have to live up to my irrational expectations to enjoy the holiday. I was happy to see our jack o’ lanterns glowing from the street in front of the giant black spider web hanging from the window. With Scott’s addition of Bach’s Toccata in Fugue blaring from the garage, it looked like we actually put some thought into the holiday. I still kind of felt a little like a cheater for not making my kids’ costumes. If the store bought Halloween costumes of today resembled those plastic ones they had when I was a kid, I would have pulled out the sewing machine. Maybe next year I will buy myself a witch costume reminiscent of my grandmother’s, sit on my bench outside my house, and scare the bejeezus out of the neighborhood kids—or not. The only tradition I really care about is visiting the pumpkin patch, and hanging out in the corn bath with my kids.

Between Halloween, class parties, and a kid birthday, I’ve baked about four dozen cookies, a dozen cupcakes and two apple pies in the last week. Of all my vegan treats, the almond thumbprint cookies with peach jam filling were the most requested by my kids. The orange jam made these cookies very appropriate for Halloween.

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