Nostalgia for the Present

nos·tal·gia
näˈstaljə,nəˈstaljə
noun
  1. a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.

The word nostalgia is learned formation of a Greek compound, consisting of νόστος(nóstos), meaning “homecoming” and ἄλγος (álgos), meaning “pain” or “ache”, and was coined by a 17th-century medical student to describe the anxieties displayed by Swiss mercenaries fighting away from home.

 

So-this-is-my-life.-And-I-want-you-to-know-that-I-am-both-happy-and-sad-and-Im-still-trying-to-figure-out-how-that-could-be.

 

Today is the last day of elementary school for my oldest daughter.  My social media feeds are swamped with “look back” photos.  The teachers sent out an album and video last night.  I looked at the pictures;  a bunch were of the gang from Kindergarten.  I went back to Facebook.  People are doing the “first day of Kindergarten / last day of sixth grade” thing.  I’m a mess.  I’m afraid to even OPEN the teachers’ video, because I know what it will be.  A series of charming pictures that might push me over the edge in the static form.  But set them to music and gently dissolve between shots?  I will be rendered a hopeless mass.

Some of this is clearly plain old nostalgia for the past.  The platitudes are so universal at this point that they are almost meaningless:  blink and they’re 16!  slow down, time!  boom, they’re graduating!  I wonder if the ease and ubiquitous nature of photos these days makes these comparisons almost too easy.  It only took me about 30 seconds to locate the picture of her starting Kindergarten.  Slap it next to this morning’s picture and I have a recipe for parental nostalgia.

Does everyone suffer this way?  I really don’t deal well with the passage of time.  I’ve written about it before, and practically every days affords me an opportunity to be ripped from the moment and reminded that this, too, is fleeting.  As I attempted to recover from my Facebook reading this morning, I settled on a phrase that I think captures this particular affliction well:  nostalgia for the present.

Lo and behold, a simple search of this phrase reveals I’m not alone in my pathology.  Sia’s first tour was named “Nostalgia for the Present.”  It’s been used as a title for a book on postmodernism and a Berber village.  It is the subject of thoughtful essays on digital media and modern life.  Apparently this is even a field of study in the social sciences where it is termed “anticipatory nostalgia.”

In an attempt to wrench myself from a sobbing fetal position, I read a review article by Krystine I. Bacho, PhD,   It’s titled “Missing the Present Before It’s Gone,” and it did a good job helping me to unpack my feelings this morning.  She talks about work on people, apparently there are more like me, who suffer this affliction.

Recent research suggests that people who have a greater need to belong and less assurance of social acceptance are more prone to anticipatory nostalgia.  It isn’t clear whether a tendency to consider the future can mentally distance a person from ongoing social interactions or whether feeling less integrated encourages one to consider the future.  According to current research, anticipatory nostalgia is neither dissatisfaction with the present nor a gloomy view of the future, but a reluctance to let go of the present.  -Bacho, Psych. Today, 2016

 

Check, check, and….check.  “A reluctance to let go of the present.”  I clutch fiercely to those moments that, as I experience them, I know they will be the snapshots that comprise the flipbook of my life.  The CliffsNotes version of the full story.  The only bits of the constant thrum of daily life that I’ll even be able to recall at the end of it all.  How can I not miss them before they are finished?  Who doesn’t mourn a good book when you arrive at the last chapter?  The last morning of vacation?  The first day of summer?  The good stuff is still happening, but the shutter is clicking.

The writer of this article touches on whether this nostalgia for the present is, essentially, a good thing or a bad thing.  Does it help one in the present, or prevent one from truly experiencing it at all?  All I know is my own experience.  If it weren’t for this heartbreaking affliction, there’s no way I would be able to write.  It stinks to always be a little bit melancholy, but I suppose it’s the trade off for whatever bit of an artist’s eye that I have.

Thank God for poetry.  My searches also led me to a poem by Jorge Luis Borge, a fully fledged, similarly afflicted soul.  It’s so comforting when someone can disassemble your current state, identify its constituent parts, polish them and render them precious, and assemble them into something greater and more universal.  Perhaps you fellow parents suffering from both nostalgia for the past and nostalgia for the present can find solace in his words as well:

Nostalgia for the present

At that very instant:
Oh, what I would not give for the joy
of being at your side in Iceland
inside the great unmoving daytime
and of sharing this now
the way one shares music
or the taste of fruit.
At that very instant
the man was at her side in Iceland.

-Jorge Luis Borges (from the Spanish)

 

Oh well.  If that doesn’t work, I’m pretty sure that’s also why they invented wine.

 

 

 

 

I Went To The Woods To Live Peripherally: Random thoughts on sixth grade camp

Last week I chaperoned sixth grade camp.  This is a thing wherein all of the 350-odd sixth graders in our school district’s five elementary schools are combined prior to heading off to middle school, where they will officially become one class.  The kids are carefully assigned to cabins and groups so that maximum mixing of unknown variables occurs over the time period.  They do a lot of camp-ish activities, but I’m pretty sure that the main goal is to meet new people and break down the elementary school tribal barriers.  In addition to geocaching and a preferred method to tie-dye, here’s a few things I learned:  

Sixth graders still make friends by kid rules, i.e., easily and quickly.  The first day, the kids stuck fiercely by the people that they knew from their own schools, come hell or high water.  Unlike adults, however, they had pretty much gotten over themselves by the dawn of the second day. At the end, when the camp leader asked for everyone who had made a new friend or met a new person to raise their hand, every hand was raised.  Phone numbers were exchanged and, much to my locked-down-phone daughter’s chagrin, Snapchat handles were shared.

They make friends quickly, but the taxonomy has already been established.  I don’t mean to suggest that camp consisted of one big, happy, homogenous, kumbaya group.  The other thing I was amazed by was the sorting that happened. See, the whole bunch of kids were shaken out of their standard school social groups, dumped in a big bucket, shaken around, and then dumped back out.  The less jaded among us might hope that friendships would then coalesce randomly. Far from it.  All of the usual groups that were there when I was in school?  They were reformed and replicated almost as soon as the proverbial bucket turned over.  I especially noticed this among the girls, although to be fair it could be that I’m simply better able to identify the calling cards of girl social groups.  The socially elite, all wearing the same hairstyle and striding confidently in a clutch through camp. The sporty girls, all slightly differently yet similarly attired;  they seemed to be the girl group that had mastered interacting with the boys in a social setting most effectively.  The solid middle class, which would have been my people, mostly sticking to themselves but having fun.  The confident outsiders, banning together and wearing their weirdness proudly. The oblivious. The lost. It was hard for me to see my own daughter and her longtime friends from way back re-sorting in this way.  I settled on my message for the inevitable re-sort: I don’t care if you are best friends with everyone, but you better darn well be kind to everyone.

sixth grade camp Sean

Frenemies with Sean since 3K….

sixth grade camp canoeing

they paddled back safely.

I’m not sure why I work so hard on meals.  I don’t make something gourmet every night, but I try cook seasonally and thoughtfully.  I consider myself a moderately accomplished home cook.  My daughter requested that I start cooking more like camp, which I guess means heating up individual pizzas and making institutional mac and cheese.

 

Sixth grade girls are very into personal hygiene, and yet they kind of aren’t.  I had girls scanning their schedules as soon as we arrived, planning when they were going to shower.  They discussed which showers they were going to use, and planned showering dates with friends with the urgency of a debutante ball.  They compared notes on what they’d wear to and from the shower, and compared the scent of overwhelmingly fruity scented products in the impossibly steamy bathrooms.  So, yeah, they were into it. (Aside: I was reminded why I don’t love dorm style showering. I attended a residential college, so dorm showers were my lot for four straight years.  And I’ll still have an occasional nightmare about showering, ranging from arriving at the shower area without any products, to the general condition of the showers come Sunday evening after a day and half without janitorial attention).  But they don’t really have the details down. For example:  removing one’s wet shoes and socks before they are allowed to ferment on one’s feet over an entire day. They didn’t quite master that detail.  The smell that greeted me upon returning to the cabin that second night was just rank.  We immediately banned any and all footwear to the outdoors, and the girls attempted to mitigated with fruity scented products. It helped…a little. I can only imagine the situation in the boys’ cabins.

sixth grade camp shoes

Ewwwww

Sixth grade is a time of great leaps of maturation, both physically and otherwise.  

sixth-grade-camp-height-e1527621077513.jpg

I managed to capture this shot one night during game time–these are both sixth graders!  The range of physicality in the room was astonishing, from kids who look like they still need a booster seat to ride in the car safely to those that I wouldn’t bat an eye at if they showed up as my Uber driver.  Along with the size, boy does a lot of change happen during this year. I don’t even know how to describe or capture it exactly, but some invisible divide is crossed, imperceptibly for most of them. For example, back in October when parents were asked to volunteer to chaperone, I swear that my daughter gave me an enthusiastic “yesyesyes.”  However several weeks ago, I was met with mild eye rolling and “Okaaaaay.” Same kid. Same trip. Same mom. Six months. I can barely keep up with where she’s at mentally and emotionally. Parenting through tricky moments feels like a craps shoot–I never know who I’m going to get! Which reminds me to point out:  sixth grade teachers an amazing breed.  Those that have stayed with it are so nimble with these kids, they seem to be able to meet them wherever they’re at, sometimes this means addressing different audiences in the same actual audience simultaneously. It looks exhausting.

 

sixth-grade-camp-molnar.jpg

sixth grade camp Molnar 2

Mr. Molnar, the guy in the blue shirt, has this crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.

 

I have found my spirit animal and she wears a green khaki shirt.  One evening we had campfire time, which was led by a no-nonsense, extraordinarily loud woman with a practical gray haircut.  I’d put her in her early 60s. She’s been doing this for over 30 years, and she had it down. Sure the kids rolled their eyes at the overly dramatic enunciation of the campfire songs, but by golly they all learned the words!  And all but the most jaded were forced to laugh and participate in the end. She even taught me a few I didn’t know, which is amazing. Then she ran the most militarized s’mores situation I’ve ever witnessed. It took 10 minutes to debrief the kids on the exact steps necessary to accomplish getting s’mores into 85 kids without anyone being burned or impaled.  But again, by golly she did it. Afterward Natalie informed me that she knew that’s what I’m going to be like someday. Well, CLEARLY.

sixth grade camp smores'

Note:  all s’mores are to be cooked from A KNEELING POSITION.

 

The adults really can’t hang.  We need ice. We need more sleep.  We need ready access to toilet facilities.  We need to not be awoken late at night because our cabin is having a farting competition and then, shockingly, needs to be chaperoned to the bathrooms to poop.  We need sleep! It felt like how I used to feel after 36 hours of call during intern year, complete with interludes on a desperately uncomfortable mattress with half-sleep punctuated by periods of being jerked awake.  By the last morning we looked rough. The adults started to perk up, however, when the countdown to camp ending reached the minutes phase. I got home and slept for three hours. My daughter watched a little TV and launched into a Memorial Day Weekend of a full social calendar.  

muppet.gif

Another mom shared this accurate portrayal of the final morning’s mood amongst the parents

 

So, I was exhausted.  But I’m so glad that I got to go.  For one, I had a Big Emotional Moment with my daughter.  This girl is as even keel as they come. She doesn’t enter into a whole lot of negative drama, which is great.  But she doesn’t give me a whole lot of positive emotion either, aside from the automated “love you’s” that echo my own.  On the last day, she spontaneously gave me a little half hug and told me that “you’re not the worst mom here.” Seriously, cross-stitch that on a throw pillow, because it made it all worthwhile.  On a less personal note, I got a real sense of where my daughter’s at and the social milieu that awaits her when she enters middle school. I felt like I got to see the last glimpse of these kids, many of whom I’ve known since they were three, for the last time, at least as a group.  As they milled about in a scrum waiting for their buses to take them back for what will surely be the eight most useless days of school of their lives, I teared up. It’s the end of an era.

sixth grade camp selfie

She finally agreed to a selfie

sixth grade camp

Stepping up to the invisible divide.

Like A Book

things-that-annoy-mom.jpgNatalie forgot to make me a mother’s day card.  This wasn’t a big deal, though, because she made me a little sketch during church service.  Our church kindly provides little cardboard card stock slips that are meant to be used for newcomers’ to fill out.  I believe that the bulk actually are used by small, bored children.  I always keep pens in my purse, including some of those cool “four colors in one” pens that haven’t changed at all since I was a kid.  Between the card stock, the quad-color pen, and her own ingenuity, she came up with something far better than a standard card.  She made a visual representation of things that annoy me.   And holy cow, does my 11-year-old have me pegged.  Here’s what she came up with:

things-that-annoy-mom1.jpg

People who don’t know how to work four way stops.  Heading north out of our subdivision I hit two heavily trafficked four-ways in rapid succession.  And it’s rare that I exit them without muttering and cursing under my breath.  The most annoying to me are the sneaky people who get to the intersection before you, even though it happened three cars before you’re both to the front of your respective lines.  They keep track and assume that, once you’re both to the front, they get to go first. Now, if I happen to pull up to empty intersection concurrent with or a bit after someone who’s been in line for a few rounds?  Clearly they get precedence and can go out of the “my turn / your turn” order.  But those jackasses that attempt to sneak out out of turn because they happened to have been waiting in a longer line than me?  Nononono.  I hope you understand my explanation, because if you attempt to argue with me, it’s not going to go well.

 

Things that annoy mom

Chalk.  This isn’t so much annoyance as pure revulsion.  I know there was a time when I looooved to be called to the front to write on the black, slate chalkboards of St. Mary’s school, preferably with white, not yellow, chalk.  Something has changed, and now I hate thinking about it, seeing it, and I really hate touching it.  The thought of drawing with chalk sends me into apoplexy.

 

things-that-annoy-mom3.jpg

When the dog vomits up underwear.  I’ve shared this previously, but I can’t remember if I told you that he’s vomited up at least 6 pairs at this point.  I don’t think that this particular dislike is unique to me, but I like the drawing.

 

When the dog jumps on the bed.  Obi attended puppy training when he was about 3 months old, and we’ve sort of winged it since then.  We enrolled in a formal obedience class about a month ago, and the instructor is big into all of the environmental controls and cues that should be instituted to remind the dog who is the head of the pack.  One of these is keeping the dog off the bed.  Some of us are buying into this philosophy more than others, and it’s not so much the dog getting on the bed, but when it’s coupled with said non-adopter hanging out on the bed with the dog.

 

 

When the girls sleep on the floor next to the bed.  It’s not so much their being there.  I admit that I relish those nights when everyone goes to bed easily, in their own beds, on the first request, and sleeps there all night.  Those three nights were great.  But I accept that due to fear or a strange desire to hang out, they like to sleep in sleeping bags on the floor of our room on the weekends.  Fine.  But they shuffle directly next to the bed and squeeze in there in such a way that my nightly trip to the bathroom is way too tricky.  I don’t need a Double Dare Physical Challenge at 2 a.m.

 

Things that annoy mom

When the girls ask me about food.  This includes constantly begging to stop at Starbucks as soon as they enter the car, asking what’s for the next meal as soon as the previous one was finished, complaining about said meals, and requesting a different meal than what is already being cooked.  Stop talking to me about food until you’re asking “where can I take you for dinner, mom?”  This is one of the big benefits of cooking in a crock pot:  they can easily identify what’s for dinner early in the day and begin to complain about it in advance without needing my input.

 

Things that annoy mom

The never ending stream of Amazon boxes.  I have to admit, I am a fan of the Prime.  However, Jimmy has a problem.  I have opened entire shipping crates packed to accommodate a single bottle of salad dressing.  This doesn’t seem necessary.  Or he accidentally buys in bulk:  a case of 36 car-compatible tissue boxes.  Or he buys a giant inflatable yard Yoda.  The one that pushed me over the edge, though, was the time I opened a large box to discover a 2-foot high vinyl replica of a bust of Shakespeare in which the head could be raised to reveal a safe.  This is apparently a nod to something from the original Batman TV series.  To me, it was a crazy thing to arrive on a random September day.  The neighbors joke about us and are slightly concerned that the constant traffic is illegal in some way.  I always say, though, if this is his worst vice, I can live with it.  I just take every-other-day trips to the recycling center for all of the flattened boxes…

So, that was my mother’s day card, highlighting all of my best, most charming traits.  Once I realized what she was doing, I asked that she draw just as many items that make me happy as she had items that irritate me.  I hoped that my daughter’s image of me was more than a summation of a list of things that rub me the wrong way.   I hoped she’d come up with all sorts of sweet things  like “being with me” and “warm hugs.”  As we’ve already seen, she knows me far too well.  I’m apparently quite bitter and jaded, because she barely came up with the requisite number, but they’re pretty spot on, and I’ll take what I can get.

“Things that don’t annoy mom:”

  • The Great British Baking Show
  • Laughing
  • Flowers
  • Family Tree / Genealogy
  • FB 24 / 7 (soooo not true)
  • Piano
  • Korean Soap Operas
  • Cooking
  • My Cup of Coffee

 

things mom likes

Just Not One of Those Moms

I like having the house all to myself.  It soothes me to get it straightened up and, for some hours of the day, to know that the state of order won’t be constantly eroded.  I wasn’t home alone this past weekend.  And I hit a mothering breaking point.  It kind of embarrasses me, but I’m hoping that some commiseration and like-mindedness will improve my sense of self worth.  You see, unlike the mothers in those commercials for paper towels, I just can’t handle out of control messes–AT ALL. 

 

paper towel ad

 

You know the ads.  The kids are baking and, OOPS!, they spill a bag of flour all over.  Hahaha, no problem!  Let’s dab it on eachother’s noses and throw in some eggs for good measure!  I have some awesome paper towels that will make it all better instantly!  Oh you kids, nothing you do can make me lose my temper! 

I hate that prototype.

I know that patience is a virtue and I try, really I do.  I’m patient about other things–listening to music lessons, reading long books.  That’s really about it, I guess.  But something about in-your-face messes just gets to me.  This is why I often suggest that to keep mom in a good mood, having the area just inside the garage door neat and tidy will go a long way.  Create a jumbled heap of shoes and bags and coats and papers and rocks for me to step over–I’m going to be surly.  I just am.   So to actually stand by and WATCH such a gory mess accumulate? Not in my skill set.   

Now, baking with the girls?  Love it.  I control the counter top and we stay ahead of the mess.   But lately they’ve wanted to bake all on their own.  Again, I know in my brain that this is a good thing, but my symmetry-loving, clear-countertop-relishing gut refuses to fall in line.  This weekend’s bake-a-thon was extra special as the baking happened while I was attempting to cook some dishes to take to a neighbors informal pot luck later that night.  Where’s my counter space, huh? To gild the guilt lily, it actually involved a moment that should have made me proud. Natalie invited the five-year-old neighbor to come and bake with her, a lovely, heart warming, mature gesture.  But.  Not only did Natalie have to get the baking completed from start to finish, but she had to shepherd a preschooler at the same time.  

Natalie is an enthusiastic, exuberant, terribly unfocused baker. I frequently find myself intervening before a teaspoon of baking soda becomes a tablespoon, or she forgets something like flour altogether. And the mess, oh sweet Jesus the mess. There is no attempt to keep one’s work space clean as is extolled on those TV cooking competitions.  Lids are left off of all ingredients, measurements routinely overflow and pool around the mixer. Eggshells drip their contents over the counter and onto the floor, where they are mashed into a slurry along with spilled dry ingredients and then crushed underfoot and spread throughout the kitchen and the rest of the house. But she got the job done, and sort of even cleaned up the dishes after herself.  

That’s when Evie announced that she too wanted to bake something. I was already at the end of my proverbial rope, so she really bore the brunt of frustrated mommy.  Oh well, she got her No Talent Cake (actual name as written on the recipe from my mother.  Self esteem issues anyone?) in the oven, and I hightailed it out to take a drive to the grocery store.  My car was an oasis of calm, and I left vague yet threatening instructions about getting the kitchen back in order before I got back. Those poor kids. But I just can’t believe that every other house is inoculated against the panic that child-led cooking brings about, just because they own brand name paper towels. It can’t just be me, can it????

If I hadn’t been me

The other day, my 8 year old was having anxiety about who she would be if she’d never been born.  She’s never been one to present me with easy “worries before bed” topics.  One summer when she was around four, every night she worried about dynamite blowing up the house.  I could only calm her down with the white lie that dynamite ONLY works on boulders, such as in train track construction.  As she’s gotten older, things have become a bit more nuanced, but still quite challenging.  So I wasn’t exactly surprised by the nature of this most recent concern.  And strangely, I knew just how to relate–because as a kid, I had the exact same preoccupation:  if I wasn’t me, then who would I be?

I wonder if there’s a name for this particular obsession?  It gets to the heart of what it means to be human, what makes one unique in the cosmos, and the fleeting and illusory nature of consciousness.  Big thoughts to be having as an 8 year old.  While I remember having them at that age as well, for me the question didn’t exactly come out of the blue.  Rather it came from a book by Dr. Seuss that my Grandma Bier had, a big, hard covered picture book about a magical land that you go to on your birthday.  

happy birthday to you

Disturbing Dr. Seuss book

The book is probably intended to make kids giddy with with wild fantastical nature of a land all for you, but it mostly stressed me out.  I didn’t ever want to be whisked away from my bed by an odd, slightly bird looking yellow man only to go to a land of  very circuitously constructed aqueducts.  There was a line in the book something like “if you hadn’t been you, what would you be?…..You might be a bag of old dusty potatoes.”  Now that shook me up.  First, if I could be a bag of potatoes, that indicated that potatoes might be sentient, and I couldn’t even beginning to wrap my head around that.  Also, the idea that me-ness might be transmutable? No thank you, Dr. Seuss.  

potatoes

Imagine this, but hung in an unheated laundry room and you’ll get the general idea.

When I was little, the potatoes were hung in one of those wire baskets in the laundry room,  an unheated lean-to attached to the north side of the kitchen.  The basket also served as an improvised hanging area for dad’s umpiring uniform shirts.  Those potatoes led a fairly forlorn existence, and every time I caught sight of them, I thought of that stupid book.  What if I were the potatoes?

So I knew we were in trouble when my daughter came to me with a particularly disturbing book to read last night:  Sylvester and the Magic Pebble.

sylvester

Sylvester and the very concerning pebble.

In this shockingly award winning book, a donkey named Sylvester discovers a pebble that grants his wishes, and he accidentally wishes to become a rock.  Then he’s a sentient rock for OVER a YEAR until he luckily is turned back by a series of deus ex machina style plot twists.  He’s a rock out being snowed on day in day out while his parents cry at home.  GOOD LORD HOW WAS I READING THIS TO HER?  I tried to focus a lot on the more ridiculous aspects of the book, so that she wouldn’t realize just how disturbing the notion that you (or in this case, a donkey) could just turn into a rock version of themselves.  It just makes the whole potato proposition all  the more probable.

There’s a couple of lessons to be learned here.  One, children’s books can really freak people out, so let’s treat lightly, OK.  Two, treat your potatoes well.  And three, welcome to the world of lifelong existential angst, oh daughter of mine!

Halloween Do’s and Don’ts

I love Halloween.  It’s the beginning of that frantic roller coaster ride that starts mid-October-ish with the need to turn on the furnace and burn apple spice scented things and continues through January 1.  While there are plenty of lists out there about how to make Halloween safer / more nutritious / more crafty / less sexy-costumified, I’m going to focus on how to do Trick or Treating right.  (This is a completely subjective list.  I’m married to someone whose idea of the right way to Trick or Treat involves getting back with the kids ASAP and changing into sweats to watch football).

  • DO yield to your children’s wishes in terms of costume complexity.  Did I really want to make a “tree” costume two weeks before my due date with the second child?  Absolutely not.  Did I do it?  Yes, because Halloween should be associated with fatigue, hot glue gun burns, and insanely cute pictures–not guilt.
    Peri-Evelyn birth 030

    You want to be a tree you say?  No problem.

    Now, the following year she wanted a $9.99 costume from Walgreens and I had to bite my tongue and let it happen.  The kid gets to drive the boat on the costume issue.  Here are a couple more of my greatest hits:

     

    Where did this ridiculous standard come from?  As with most things (at least according to my therapist) the blame lies squarely and wholly on my mother’s shoulders.  While I can sew straight lines from a pattern reasonable well, she can just make stuff up and it comes out looking great.  Mom would routinely wait until a couple of days before Halloween and begin taking requests from the five of us–and she delivered on ANYTHING. Between her mountains of scrap fabric, the refrigerator box housing previous years’ dance and Halloween costumes, and sheer ingenuity she created costumes including:  Minnie Mouse including padded shoe covers, Robin Hood, The Man in Black, Little Bo Peep, and Pepe Le Pew in addition to scores of witches, vampires and ghosts.  So whenever people suggest that I’m creative with costumes, I just roll my eyes.

  • DO dress your infant to toddler age child as a doll.  The caveat to the “kids drive the costume boat” rule outlined above is that this only applies once they are able to form really good full sentences.  Before that–they’re yours!  And kids as dolls are just too cute to pass up.  Their cheeks are so round and translucent for such a short period, that highlighting the fact through a well-timed doll costume is just too deliciously irresistible. 

    Like my mother, I went for Raggedy Ann.  Unlike my mother, I did NOT handmake my own yard wig in the days before You-tube tutorials were a thing.  Guys, she MADE UP her OWN version of a yarn wig.  I remember that she used leftover denim scraps for the underside skeleton of that red yarn wig I’m wearing above.  The woman is a technical genius.

  • If the baby is bald, DO take advantage of this with a costume highlighting the baldness.  We chose Shaolin Monk. 

    There are plenty of options however.  How about a Bruce Willis baby?  Mr. Clean?  Larry David?  Steve Harvey?  Rough time in her life Britney Spears?

  • DO NOT let Wisconsin weather be an excuse for staying inside.  Layer, layer, layer, and make sure that the headpiece at least gives a clue to the costume because chances are good that the rest won’t be seen at all.2011 November 035
  • DO let them trick or treat for as long as they want to.  This applies both to the day (a rule I find easier to apply since Jimmy is inevitably the one traversing the neighborhood in Wisconsin Halloweens) and over the years.  I will give out candy to anyone as long as they say “trick or treat” and are willing to let me identify their costume as “disaffected teenager.”
  • DO encourage a healthy sense of competition by opening a trading floor for the neighborhood children after trick or treating.

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    Cordani House Trading Floor after the opening bell, Halloween 2017

  • DO NOT insert yourself into this floor.  Despite the fact that my children will literally bicker about anything (example from today’s backseat:  does the “beginning of time” mean the beginning of the universe or when humans started keeping track of time?  Because this affects the argument about “most awesome since the beginning of time.), they will manage to both create and enforce their own set of rules and norms in this bartering system.  DO NOT be tempted to suggest that their trade of 6 fun size Butterfingers for a full size Hershey is dumb because nobody really likes Hershey.  You will be met with a look of utter disdain and exasperation.  Stay upstairs with the adult beverages.
  • DO dress up yourself.  DO NOT worry about how silly you look.  I find great delight in dressing up for Halloween, and  I think I come by this honestly, given my family history.  Check out this snapshot of my Grandma on the right from 1946:
    Halloween 1946

    Ann (Recchia) Yench, Philip Yench, Nell (Yench) Cousin, a.k.a., “Grandma”

    I’m fairly certain that whatever is happening to her right is completely inappropriate by modern standards, but it certainly lends a certain devil-may-care attitude to the whole scene.  My mother also still enjoys dressing up, and 10 points for whoever can name her spirit-animal as whom she dresses every Halloween.  Hint:  she is a teacher, and it’s a book character…

    october-31-2016_untitled_041.jpg

    For those curious, yes, I believe she made this yarn wig too.  If you could see her stockings, they’re striped…

fall 2014-13

Grandma and the girls before getting lost on the way to the school Fall Festival and having to wait for help outside the car in this getup.

  • DO NOT let work keep you from dressing up.  Now, as pediatrician, it was perhaps somewhat easier for me to justify wearing a full costume to work.  However, I did not let concern for my patients’ literary fears affect my choices, as evidenced as two favorites that, yes, I wore to work:  Evil Queen and Dolores Umbridge.

 

Christmas 008

The year that I was senior resident during Halloween and “encouraged” the team to dress up as characters from Grease.  I can’t figure out why the reviews from my students were never higher…

  • DO let them eat the candy til they puke on Trick or Treat night.  It’s one night a year and provides a real sensory lesson on the notion of gluttony.   That whole consume-til-you-puke phenomenon is why I can no longer partake of either banana chips or Bailey’s.

    halloween 2007 029

    Natalie, Halloween 2007.  FYI, no evidence of candy desensitization as of yet

Wedding Dancer

The younger of the girls, Evie, is a lot like me.  We both hang out quite a bit in our heads and enjoy worrying about things completely out of our control.  We also enjoy exerting the maximum control over those things we can.  For example, last night she was interested in ranking, in order of likelihood and severity, natural disasters.  You see, we like to have some sort of a thoughtful approach to our rumination.  As you might imagine, this can get a bit taxing at times.

That’s why I will forever cherish a certain, newly-formed memory for the rest of my sentient days.  It is already nestled safely in that Jewel Box of Perfect Memories.  The metaphorical box is populated with those crystallized moments that exist in perfect, freeze-frame clarity.  If my life were a long bunch of film, these moments would make up the highlight reel.  My newest gem for the collection is Evie as wedding dancer.

A couple of weeks ago, we celebrated a family wedding, and pretty much all of my mom’s family was there.  Now, this family loves a wedding dance.  My Grandma and Grandpa Cousin (my mom’s parents) were famous for cutting a rug at any opportunity, and the entire bunch of us are unabashed wedding dancers.  My childhood is littered with memories of relatives’ weddings and us as kids cramming the front of the dance floor before we retreated, bleary with sleep, to the tables to watch the grown ups dominate the scene.  One of the best include my Great Aunt Helen, my Grandpa’s sister, who was also a recreation square dancer.

Of course, at some point I entered into that bleak, black period of childhood wherein we I was too embarrassed to freely dance.  What a waste of good dancing time this was, but there you go.  To truly enjoy wedding dancing, you can’t give even the slightest concern to how you look doing it.

Wedding dancing 1988

I’m pretty  much in that bleak, awkward period here as evidenced by the hand snapping.   But at least my glasses aren’t as large as my mother’s

In everyday life, Evie has this same burden overwhelming concern about what people think of her.  However.  This absolutely does not apply to wedding dances, where she truly lets her freak flag fly.  She comes by this honestly and was taught by the best…

And she was in rare form a couple of weeks ago.  The girl couldn’t get enough, and she simply embodied joy.  It was perfect.At one point, right around the climax of the party when everything is at its peak and you know that it’s probably only downhill from here, they started playing a loooong Santana number.  Something about the Latin rhythms, the thrumming guitar, spoke to Evie.  She flung herself wholly into the music, threw her head back and DANCED.  And, like moths to a flame, we were all drawn to her.  Without discussing it, we began following her childish moves that translated so easily into dance.  Every eight bars she’d switch her move up, the circle of adult acolytes would grin, and we’d pick up the beat.  She didn’t miss a step, and neither did we.  If nothing else, the girl has a future as a Zumba instructor.

So, if you want your day made, get a load of this gem from the Jewel Box of Perfect Memories: