Monday, November 30, 2009

Photos by Piper

Sometimes, when I give her my phone to fiddle with, just so I can get through the check-out line at Target or drive the last five minutes home without having her in complete and total meltdown mode, she boots up the camera. She really likes the shutter sound it makes when it takes a picture. Every time I flip through my pictures stored on the phone, I find 15 new ones of a patch of floor, or the view out the car windows as seen from her perch in the back. I get photos of her car-seat buckles, my chin, or her dad's shoulder. Some of them I delete immediately (who wants 17 photos of the carpeting in the play area at the mall?) but some I keep. They seem like tiny windows into her world, a glimpse of her view of things. I get to notice what she notices, for a change. Here are a couple she took while I was wandering around a dreaded Wal-Mart Supercenter, trying to explain to a friend which vegetable oil would be best for making a cake:





They are, at least, interesting, which is more than I can say for some of the photos I take.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"I'm just going to drink my latte"

This is what happens when I leave my caramel-apple latte sitting around at the playground while I'm desperately trying to get a non-blurry photo of her face:



"Mmm! This is good latte. Mommy's latte is very tasty."

And, no, it wasn't decaf. It was, however, a very long afternoon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing a very happy, safe, and food-filled Thanksgiving to my U.S. readers. And, for that matter, a very happy, safe, and food-filled Thursday to all my non-U.S. readers.

I will be eating my weight in pie. Hey, I earned it, since I spent all of yesterday baking. I made the following:

Orange-cranberry-oat scones
Apple Pie
Pecan Pie
Pear Pie With Asiago-Rosemary Crust

Plus these awesome little cookies that are like sugar-butter thumbprints with a candycane & cream cheese mixture dolloped into the center. I finally packed them into Tupperware and made my brother hide them in the garage because I ate so many. It's pretty cold out there, they'll keep. And I won't get a bellyache.

And tomorrow? The glory that is turkey quesadillas.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eating Pretzels on the Steps of Henry Ford's Boyhood Home



We went to Greenfield Village on Sunday with my dad. It was way fun. Except for the part where Piper jumped into a giant puddle of horse pee. That part was gross.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

RGR Giveaway: Gingerbread Skirt

Marissa of Rae Gun Ramblings is hosting a bunch of awesome giveaways, including one for this adorable skirt.


Pretty darn cute. Visit the above link to enter.

P.S. I would've posted a picture, so you could all see the super-cuteness of that skirt, but my parents, for some ridiculous reason, have nothing but Internet Explorer on their computers, and it sucks so bad that after ten minutes of trying I had no picture, my post eaten twice, and felt like PUNCHING THE WHOLE WORLD IN THE FACE. But I did try, because I love you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cleanliness is Next to Dadliness

My parents like it when I visit.

Not only do I bring the Sacred Grandchild, Best Baby Ever, Smartest Child In The Universe with me, but I cook.

And cook. And cook.

I cook big lunches and dinners and freeze the leftovers for my mom to take for lunch, or for everyone to defrost and eat on nights when nobody feels like cooking. When I leave, their spare freezer in the basement is full of stacks of neatly-labled Tupperware containers. I make a lot of food, and it's usually pretty healthy and whole-food focused. I use whole-grain flours, fresh vegetables, good meats, and as little fat and cheese as I can get by with. They all eat it and they love it.

My parents remodeled their kitchen a few years ago, and turned it from a cramped, dark horrorshow into a bright, airy space with TONS of cupboards and counter space. There is also a six-burner gas range...and my dad.

My dad does the dishes and cleans the kitchen. It is his chore around the house, his "thing" that he does, and he likes it that way.

Which means that I can come into a sparkling kitchen every evening, make honey-basalmic glazed chicken and pecan pie for dessert (or cheddar-potato soup, or tortilla soup, or turkey chilli, or pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese icing), and not have to clean up afterward.

Sure, I tidy up as I go, like any good cook (or houseguest) should, but when I'm done eating, the mountain of pots, pans, and plates is not my problem. Someone else will deal with and actually prefers to do it himself.

It's fabulous.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Brass Hussy GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Oh, man, look at this jewelry!

I know someone who would love this squirrel-and-acorn necklace (I mean, besides me):


Winner gets a $30 gift certificate to The Brass Hussy's shop. Visit the link below to enter.

The Brass Hussy GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Grosgrain: Modern Blitz Designs Guest Giveaway

Another great giveaway, especially at this time of year! Free custom custom card design...wowza.

This is a great opportunity if you are like me - I always have all these terrific ideas for holiday cards, all this creative stuff just swirling around in my brain, but utterly fail when it comes to time, patience, and knowledge to make them a reality.

Visit the link below to check out the giveaway.

Modern Blitz Designs Custom Card GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Grosgrain: The Handmade Dress Patterns Guest Giveaway

Grosgrain is featuring a very generous giveaway from The Handmade Dress: one each of Samantha's dress patterns.

These are so cute, and pretty much exactly the sort of thing I love to dress my little girl in. Go check out the giveaway at the link below, and then browse Samantha's shop. You won't be sorry.

The Handmade Dress Patterns GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Stuff Under Twenty Giveaway: Silver Ring

I loooooove rings. Big ones, little ones, chunky ones, dainty ones. But rarely do I fall in love with a ring as hard and fast as I have just fallen for the one they're giving away over at Stuff Under Twenty.




Go check out the giveaway and comment to win. You have until tormorrow night, so hurry! Also go check out the beautiful items made by the sponsor, Sea Babe. This "Crisp Morning Air" necklace is now at the tippy-top of my wishlist.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Fashion: Little Feet

I love Livie and Luca shoes. I have not yet bought a pair for Piper, but that has not stopped me from obsessing about them. I daydream about buying her these in every size:


Ahhhhh! Couldn't you just have a heart attack from all the cute?! These are pretty good, too:


And would get a lot of use, considering that half her wardrobe is purple.

However, at $47 a pair, for something that she would scuff in two seconds flat, these will have to remain on my wishlist, for now at least.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm Sure This Will Be Less Funny the Older She Gets

Well, I missed a day, didn't I? I'll just have to post twice in one day to make up for it.

We had a lovely 4-day visit on the other side of the state, but I'm not sure if I'll be doing the Grand Tour like that again. Piper sort of freaked out about all the new places and lack of home comforts. Spending four days repeating every possible variation of "No," "Stop that," "Be quiet," "Stop touching that," or "Be quiet" wore me out. I'd never particularly thought of our house as kid-proofed, but after spending four days in places with crowds, quiet rooms, breakable items, tons of knick-knacks, steep stairs, sharp things sitting on the edges of counters, and zero toys, I truly appreciate how nice it is to be able to turn my kid loose somewhere and not worry.

Even here at my parents' house it's difficult - although my mom claims not to like clutter, there are magazines and yarn and crochet hooks and scissors and stacks of books and reams of paper and electronics sitting all over every surface. My brother is staying at the house while he prepares to buy a house of his own, so all his electronics and art supplies and leather-working tools and welding stuff and four cats are crammed in here too. They have an entertainment center whose glass door seems to exert a magnetic pull on my two-year-old and behind its magnetic spring closure exists a tower of things with intriguing buttons and knobs.

Piper stuffed a scarf into the VCR on our second night here. She came up to me and repeated "Is it stuck? Did you get it stuck? Is it stuck in there?" and pointed at the stereo cabinet. My dad and I both realized what had happened and looked at each other. My mom had crocheted her a kid-sized scarf complete with fringe, and she'd stuffed it into the tape slot on their VCR. I was concerned, but not enough to prevent me from hooting with laughter as my dad struggled to remove it. He was laughing too, as a worried-looking Piper repeated "Is it stuck? Grandpa get it not stuck?" while he gingerly extracted the threads.

Fortunately, my parents adore Piper and think that pretty much anything she does is amazing. She rarely manages to irreparably damage anything, and after raising three of the most destructive and devious children known to mankind, one semi-well-behaved toddler is a breeze.

For example: when we were 13 and 16, a disagreement between my brother and myself turned into an all-out brawl, during which he slammed me bodily into a wall. Drywall wasn't really meant to withstand the force of teenage fisticuffs, so there was a pretty big hole. We managed to hide it from them for about six months, and even then they only found out because that wall covered an old chimney and bats started getting inside the house.

Then there were the mad-scientist experiments conducted by my brother involving frogs and electricity; the time I drove one of our cars into the ditch and got back out without mentioning it to anyone; and my sister, the human spider monkey, climbing to the top of the cupboards and throwing dishes down.

We broke things, we experimented, we made applejack (fermented cider) in the basement. We nailed things to the floor and pilfered tools and drank from their open wine bottles and replaced it with water (like they wouldn't notice). Sometimes, as exasperated as I get with my own kid now, I have to laugh, because when I ask her why she did something she gives me the classic "I don't know, it just seemed like the thing to do" look. I remember giving my parents that look many, many times, and having absolutely no explanation for the incredibly dumb or dangerous thing I had just done. Now I find myself on the other side of that look, the beginning of a lifetime's-worth of asking "Why did you do that?! What is wrong with you?!"

Of course, I'm sure my parents are just cackling with glee at all this. They've been using the "I hope you grow up and have a kid JUST LIKE YOU" threat for years.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rootless

It's so odd to come back and visit a place where I once lived. I told my husband once that as much as I love seeing all our old friends, I find it difficult and a little unnerving to come back and hang around Kalamazoo.

"When I'm here, I like to see everyone and hang out and go to all our old favorite spots...but then I want to go down the street and home to my bed and curl up under a blanket and wake up in our little apartment and walk across the back yard to go get fresh bagels for breakfast. But I can't do any of that, because it's not our apartment anymore, and we got rid of that blanket two moves ago, and tonight we're going to be crashing on someone's sofa bed because we don't live here anymore. We're in this place that is so familiar, this town we once loved and called home, but we have nowhere to go. It makes me feel so rootless and unconnected, like I could just fly off the spinning planet."

He laughed and called me silly, until a few years ago when we came back for a wintertime visit and found ourselves driving down our old street in the dark a few weeks before Christmas, looking at all the ramshackle Victorian houses with their crooked strings of lights. There was a light on in the apartment that we had once lived in and loved so well, and we knew the radiators would be gurgling away, making the place toasty warm.

"Okay, you're right," he said as we slowly cruised past our old building. "I want to just pull into our driveway and go home, but I can't. It feels like I ought to be able to just park in our old spot and go right upstairs. But I can't. Our stuff isn't there; it's 3,000 miles away, in California. That sad little fake tree you used to put up isn't up there, or those pine candles you got that smelled like toilet cleaner. Our super-comfy bed with the sad old comforter isn't there, either, even though my body wants to go upstairs and tumble into it. Even though I almost just pulled into the driveway out of habit, we don't live here anymore. It still feels like home here but it's not home. Oh, I don't like this at all."

But there's nothing to be done about it, is there? I'd love to win the lottery and buy our old apartment building and turn it back into the gorgeous pre-war duplex it once was. I'd love to live in our old neighborhood, close to our friends and right in the middle of a vibrant and diverse community. But those things wouldn't change us back into the people we were then, or give us back the life we used to have here. We're different, the town is different, some of our friends have moved away and those that remain also have very different lives from what used to be.

I know all this, but every time I'm here I am filled with longing, because I think it is the last place that truly felt like home.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Books on the Wall, II



Part of a failed attempt to make our house look cool like in Ready-Made Magazine.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stumbling Down Memory Lane

We've already been visiting here in Michigan for a week. It seems like barely any time has passed, yet also like we boarded that plane a long time ago. Either way, we've been having a blast. I met up with my friends who live in the area, and since most of them have kids Piper's age, she's had more playmates in the last six days than in the last six months. I am doing pretty well, I think, given that my social skills are sorta rusty. Months of regularly interacting with only one other adult human will do that to you.

Today we made the two-hour drive over to Kalamazoo, on the west side of the state, which is where my husband and I both went to college. It's a fun, funky college town and I had forgotten how much I love it here.

I met some friends downtown for lunch and as we walked back to our cars and took in the autumn scenery, we all realized just how much time we'd spent in the bars along W. Michigan Ave.

"Maybe it's better that Piper isn't old enough to care about getting my personal tour of this town," I remarked. "Becuase 85% of it would be places I got drunk."

Ahh, college.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Win 20 Pairs of Baby Legwarmers

Baby Snazz must have people around who are as obsessed with the baby legwarmers as I am, because they're having an awesome giveaway. 20 pairs of legwarmers! An unimagninable bounty of riches, as far as I'm concerned. See their contest page for entry form, rules, & regulations.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Fashion Ramblings: What I Mean by "Less"

I am a many-times-confessed Bag Addict. I like to look at Purse Blog and drool over all the fabulous bags. Perfectly innocent.

But this is what they consider "getting the look for less":

I guess some people would consider that "less," but $268 is still way outta my price range, you know? Especially when I can get this at Old Navy for $24.50:



Is it real leather? No. Does it have a designer label on it? No. But unless somebody is looking really hard at it (and I always have to wonder who does that?), all they will see is me with my sweet-looking handbag.

The truth is, I would feel MORE confident carrying around my $25 handbag than I would a $268 one. Yes, the $268 one is swanky - and the $1595 one is even more so - with lining and real leather and probably some hand-stitched something somewhere, but these very pricey handbags have very specific care instructions. They need to be conditioned and kept stuffed full of paper to retain their shape and cleaned very carefully, et cetera. I would feel so nervous carrying that thing around in my klutzy arms as I navigate my very messy life. Whereas my $25 bag can probably withstand a few knocks and bumps. I can cram it full of snacks, spare clothes, sippy cups of chocolate milk, toys, notepads, knitting projects, and all the other 10,000 things I have to carry around on a daily basis, and not worry that it will get stretched out of shape. If that sippy cup should leak, I can just empty the bag, hose it out with my kitchen-sink sprayer, and hang it up to dry.

Don't get me wrong, it would be nice to have the opportunity to spend hundreds (or thousands) on a handbag, but, for now anyway, I don't pine for anything I would ruin in two hours.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Back Yard View

Look! I'm even blogging on vacation (or is it "vacation"? Because this trying-to-cram-everyone-into-one-visit stuff is hard work, yo).

Here's the view from our back yard in mid-October:



As my friend who lives in Chattanooga puts it, "In the South, it's like Fall all Winter long." While the trees are bare up here in the Great White North, our trees in Charlotte only started coming into full, riotous color a couple weeks ago.

While there are many things I don't like about living in Charlotte, the six-months-of-Fall aspect isn't one of them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just to Make You Drool


Sweet-potato cupcakes, with orange cream cheese icing, topped with dried orange cranberies. I made these as a surprise for a friend's birthday. They were good.

Monday, November 09, 2009

LOUD.

This was originally written after I got back from our last visit to my parents' house. I thought I'd dust it off and actually post it, since I am in the thick of Loudsville again.

May 1, 2009:

Piper and I spent two weeks in Michigan, staying at my parents' house. It was two weeks of pretty much constant traveling and bustle, as we careened around trying to see everyone and do everything. I think I managed to hit everything on my list, squeezing in a few hours at Belle Isle on Monday. I was glad I got to go, since a trip out there with my swanky D60 was at the top of my to-do list. I LOVE it there. Practically everything is old and abandoned and crumbling and beautiful. I got a lot of shots of the abandoned zoo this time. I did not get to stop at all the spots I wanted to, since my mom and Piper were with me. It was nice to have my mom along to distract the kid, but she was ready to go after about 45 minutes. My mom, that is, not Piper. Piper was cool with it all, she would've happily played on the giant playground, splashed in puddles, and chased geese until she dropped in her tracks.

It was nice to be around people again, to have friends to hang out with and playmates for Piper. It was also nice to come back to our little house. I needed some peace and quiet because I always feel like my parents' house is so LOUD. The TV is always on and the volume is cranked up. Everyone is always talking, and instead of turning the TV down they all talk over it. And then over each other. The phone rings constantly, and since they got Caller ID a few years ago they refuse to answer the phone most of the time, they just stare at the display and ask each other "Do you know that number?" "No, do you?" "It's a telemarketer." "Well, I'm not going to answer that!" "I'm not either!" while the phone rings and rings and rings.

My mother's younger brother calls at least three times a day. Her work calls at 5:00 almost every morning, and then again at 6:00 to ask if she's really, really sure she doesn't want to come in today (she's an on-call nurse and picks her own days). The phone ringers are all cranked up to maximum volume because my mom says she can't hear it ring when she is outside gardening. Never mind they've just had six months of snow and she told me that since she had no time for gardening last summer, this year she's going to let it all go. Apparently doing absolutely nothing but watching the snow fall or the flowers grow in her back yard still requires a ringer volume of 11.

Her cell phone plays an irritating, hokey country song - also at maximum volume - whenever she gets a text message, which is about every 20 minutes since several of her siblings got cell phones this past year. She learned how to download songs and ring tones onto it, which play at ear-splitting levels whenever anyone calls. Her computer speakers are turned up to max, too, and she is constantly playing YouTube videos of my cousins' Christian band or those crazy animated "You're a great friend!" forwards with the tinny music.

Their next-door neighbor has a machine shop in his garage and mechanical noises issue from it until the wee hours. While we were there, not only was he running loud machines, he pulled up a semi truck with what appeared to be a portable Army barracks attached to it - camouflage and all - and started cleaning out his house. They recently sold it, but somehow get the keep the garage (with noisy machine shop intact).

When the phone isn't ringing, my mom is talking to one of her siblings or her mother or numerous friends, re-telling the same stories (mostly about how much she hates her job) over and over. Loudly, of course, bellowing into the receiver over the sound of the TV, the computer, the stereo, and ten people talking.

My brother comes over and puts on music and cranks the volume up; he shows my dad stuff on the computer, video clips that I can hear when I am upstairs at the opposite end of the house. My sister comes home and watches Food Network, turning the volume steadily upward to try and drown out the rest of the house. Which, of course, makes everyone get louder.

And whenever I say anything, they all act like it's my problem. In the car, my brother put a CD in and immediately turned the volume up to 35 before it even played. Piper and I were in the back seat and nearly got blasted out the window.

"Hey, can you turn that down?" I asked. "It's really loud back here."
"I can barely hear it up here," he said.
"Well, turn the fade all the way to the front, then. We're getting blasted." I showed him where the appropriate knob was, but it didn't make much difference so I asked him again to turn it down.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with it. The fade is all the way to the front now and I can barely hear it up here!"
"And I am telling you that it is too loud. It is too loud for me. It is too loud for Piper-"
"-look at her, she doesn't seem to mind. Your ears are just too sensitive. You have a problem."
"I am her parent, and I think the music is too loud to be good for her hearing."
"Loud music is awesome, I don't know what your problem is. Why are you teaching her to be an old fogey? Turn it down! Psh!"
"Listen," I said, "you claim you can't hear it up there. But you started talking louder when it came on. So at least some part of your body acknowledged that it was beyond normal conversational level. The volume control is at 35 right now, that is more than loud enough."
He made some crack about me being an "old fart" and turned the music off entirely, saying again that I had some kind of ear problem.

This exchange is pretty typical of my family. It's not me, it's you; it's not my fault; I didn't do it; you're the one with the problem, not me.

I was upstairs putting Piper to bed when and I heard the TV blaring from the living room downstairs. Upstairs and across the house, I could still hear every word of the annoying car commercial. I went downstairs and asked my mom why the TV was so loud.

"What?" She said. "It's not loud. I don't think it's loud. I mean, I didn't turn it up. It was just that way. The commercial came on and it was loud. But I didn't set the volume control. I didn't do it. I didn't make it loud. It wasn't me."
"So you couldn't, say, turn it down?" I picked up the remote and turned the volume down.
"Well, I didn't turn the TV on. It wasn't me, I didn't make it loud. I didn't know, maybe somebody wanted it that way or something. But I didn't make it loud, it's not my fault. It was the commercial that was loud."
"Yeah, but it didn't occur to you to maybe turn it down when it got loud?"
"Well, I didn't turn the TV on. It wasn't me. And anyway, I don't think it's that loud."
I sighed. "I could hear it all the way upstairs. I was trying to get Piper to sleep and it woke her up."
"Well, I don't know. It's not my fault. I didn't do it."

This is the way they all react whenever I say anything about the TV being loud. It's the commercials, they're loud, it's not my fault you can hear it from the end of the driveway. I can't do anything about it, the commercials are just so loud. Then they have discussions and complain about how loud commercials are these days. It never occurs to anyone at any point during these discussions to turn it down when a program goes to commercial.

Friday, November 06, 2009

My Favorite Things, #2: The Crazy Boots



My sister bought these for me back in August, for my birthday, and I didn't think I'd ever wear them. They seemed a little too UGG-like for my taste, and they would probably be useless against rain or snow. I couldn't figure out where they would fit in.

Fast-forward a few months, and I'm looking for something comfy to slip on with my layers of skirts and legwarmers when we're about to go out to dinner. These happened to match perfectly with the brown skirt and blue shirt I'd pulled from the "probably clean" pile at the bottom of my closet. They were fast to put on, they were comfy, my feet were not freezing like they had been in my other pull-on boots the day before. Just like that, these little boots moved up from "what the heck?" status to "how did I live without you?" ranking.

On closer inspecton, I think the buckles keep them from looking too house-slipper-y, like a lot of cloth boots I see. My husband thought I looked "cute" in all my layers of scarves and skirts and legwarmers and hoodies; I just hoped I didn't look like a bag lady.

Psst: For Thing #1, see this post.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Halloween 2009: The Least-Blurry of the Batch

It is so HARD to take non-blurry photos of little kids! I really need a speedlight flash for my camera; the built-in pop-up flash did little but blind everyone around me.



As you can see, we made a valiant effort with the hat, but it didn't last.



Anyway, the little witch trick-or-treated like a seasoned pro. One trip around our friends' neighborhood netted more than enough candy for a two-year-old which is why I have, um, rescued her from having to eat all those Kit-Kats and Milky Ways. Now someone is going to have to rescue the button on my jeans from my ever-expanding candy gut.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

NaNoBlo...whatever

Isn't this the month where people try to post on their blogs every day?

I think I am accidentally doing that. Sort of. I missed a day. But since this is entry #2 today, does that count? I can take an average at the end of the month, right?

My husband took Piper out today for some one-on-one time, since Piper and I are going to be gone for a few weeks starting Saturday. This leaves me with a blissful block of uninterrupted writing/crafting/working/cleaning time.

I am finishing up some Pay-It-Forward swap packages, hoping to have them out before I leave. If you're still waiting for yours, I'm sorry about my slowness, but I promise to make up for it. Honest. You'll see.

I am also sorting through about 4GB of pictures, cleaning the kitchen, working on a short story, scheduling blog posts, and combing through the wall of unread stuff in my RSS reader. How's that for multi-tasking?

And all of this just to avoid packing.

Procrastinating.

Last week, I decided to go to Michigan for a visit. The cheapest tickets were, weirdly enough, for a Saturday less than two weeks away. Which meant that I had about 9 days to prepare for a nearly-month-long stint away from the house.

Because I am a masochist, I clicked "buy."

And promptly spent the entire next day re-organizing my yarn and updating my Ravelry queue. I did not pack, or clean, or do laundry, or any of the other things I should've been doing. I did take care of some book-keeping stuff, but that was mostly because I was already online.

I have also decided that before I go, I will finish two of my three remaining Pay-It-Forward swap packages, do a bunch of blogging, and re-arrange my bedroom.

We leave on Saturday - this Saturday - and I haven't started packing yet. I don't even know where three-fourths of the stuff I want to take is.

Procrastination is really an art, as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Best Halloween Ever.

On Saturday, we had the best Halloween ever. It was a pretty simple night; we carved a pumpkin, went trick-or-treating with friends and their little boy, grabbed some food on the way home, and watched Hocus Pocus until our eyelids grew too heavy to keep open.

In order to understand why this pretty normal-sounding Halloween was the most awesome Halloween we could imagine, I will tell the story of our other Halloweens.

Our pre-kid Halloweens were pretty lame afairs; we never got invited to parties, so there was never any reason to dress up. We never got trick-or-treaters at the apartments we lived in. The one time we tried to have a Halloween party of our own, hardly anybody showed up and we were left with a keg of beer and a freezer full of Jell-o shots. Halloween had been my favorite holiday when I was a kid, but once I reached grown-up status it just left me feeling uncool and unfulfilled.

Once Piper came along, we had a reason to look forward to pumpkins, candy, and all things spooky again. However, her first Halloween did not turn out so well, which really upped the ante for the following year's festivities. Not only would it be her first trick-or-treat (at 16 months, she was old enough to enjoy dressing up and carrying a plastic pumpkin, even if there was no way we were going to let her have all the candy), but we had a crappy first Halloween to make up for.

I scored a bat costume at Old Navy the weekend before Halloween for just $5, which was good, because prior to that we were sort of clueless about what to dress her up as. My mom had sent not one but two cat costumes, which Piper was intrugued by. However, they were far too large and had way too many pieces (main body suit, tail, hand pieces, foot pieces, hood) for either one to be practical. So bat it was.

I dressed her up and took some pictures outside while the light was still good. We waited until dark, nervously anticipating the first doorbell ring. We had bought candy and handed out a few pieces while wrestling the little bat back into her costume. Since it was her first trick-or-treat, we both wanted to take her. We put some candy in a pumpkin bucket on the front porch along with a little sign I had made:

We figured this would hold them for the 30 or so minutes it would take to walk Piper to a few houses up and down the street. We'd only lived in our house less than six months, so we were just going to hit the houses of neighbors who waved "hi" most often and then call it a night.

We turned on the porch light and set off down the sidewalk. We didn't even get to the edge of our yard when a group of kids came up to our door. I turned to watch them, hoping our honor-system candy dispensary would meet with trick-or-treater approval. I heard rustling and a whoop, and dread crept into my chest. More noise came from the group and the kids started to scatter. I felt my stomach drop to somewhere around shoe level. I started back across the yard toward the group of kids, feeling horror-struck and confused.

"They jacked all you candy!" yelled one girl as she hurried past. "It wasn't me, they took all you candy! They jacked it all!" The group of kids streamed past me, and one of them kicked the tiny pumpkin we'd carved for Piper. It spun like a top and wheeled out into the yard, its lid flying into the darkness beyond the porch light.

I looked at our front door area. The Halloween pictures Piper and I had colored together earlier were still taped to the door. My naive little sign was still there, too, hanging above the now-empty candy bucket. It lay on its side, forlorn in the yellow glow of the porch light. I picked it up and unlocked the front door, then put it just inside the doorway. I took down the sign and tossed it inside the house, all the while trying not to cry.

I felt dumb for being so shocked, but I couldn't help it. The very first group? Really? While we stood at the edge of the yard? I didn't understand how those kids could be so...callous. Hadn't they seen my charming sign? Didn't they care about the time it took to carve the little pumpkin they had just used as a soccer ball? Wasn't this just a fun night, not a symbol for the limitless greed of poorly-parented children?

I like to play the supreme cynic, but, as I discovered that All Hallow's Eve, it turns out that underneath it all I still assume people are basically good. And I was wrong. It was also one of those times when you get slapped hard in the face with the knowledge that the world does not think the way you do. I would have never, no matter how rabid my thirst for chocolate, have EVER taken more than one piece of candy. Even my little brother at his most candy-hungry or my all-her-teeth-are-sweet-ones sister would never have dared. We would have known that God could see us, and our mother, and our own consciences. We would have known that it was wrong, undeniably and unquestionably wrong, to take more than our share. To find so many kids who did not have those checks and balances, kids who were living in our neighborhood and would be my daughter's schoolmates one day, was more than disappointing. I felt crushed.

So I took her up one side of our street while Ryan stayed home and handed out candy. I walked with her up to the first house and giggled as she held out her little plastic pumpkin and chirruped "tweets!" We'd been working with her for a couple of weeks, and this was as close as she could get to saying "trick or treat." Our neighbor three houses down chuckled and put a tiny candy bar in her bucket. Piper peered over the rim of the bucket at it, then looked at me with big round eyes. By the third house, she was running up to the doorways and confidently saying "tweets!" all on her own. We did the west end of our street, then I traded with Ryan and he took her up the eastern side. She got enough candy to fill her little bucket halfway, and we even let her have some (after, of course, we *ahem* checked the quality on several of her mini-Butterfinger bars). The rest of the night wasn't bad, but even with all the good stuff, the sour feelings left by the candy-robbers lingered, for me at least.

This year, when a friend invited us to come to her neighborhood and trick-or-treat, I jumped at the invitation. Right then and there, I made the decision to leave our neighborhood in the dust as far as Halloween was concerned. Our feelings about living here have grown steadily more bitter over the past year, for several reasons (like, oh, I don't know, our neighbor's stupid dog killing our beloved cat, for starters) and I just wanted to go somewhere else for the night.



And you know what? It was fantastic. Our friends' little boy is only 13 months old, so he spent a lot of time tugging at his costume and staring saucer-eyed at the parade of costumed kids as we wheeled him around in his little red wagon. Piper had a great time, alternately riding with him, walking up to the houses, and being carried around. We hung out with our friends for a little while after the kids had had enough, and then we picked up some food on the way home and watched my favorite Halloween movie. It was pretty much exactly the Halloween I envisioned.

I hope yours was as good as ours. Welcome to November!