And a Haunted Halloween to You

Posted on 10/31/2009 05:23:00 AM In:
Every year when we go to the pumpkin patch, we drive through Charles Town, West Virginia past this house. This is what our house would look like each year if The KingofHearts had unlimited money... and I was dead. Since he's sure to die before me (*ahem* not that I'm planning anything), we drive up here and he lives vicariously through these people.












Special bonus Halloween message, because I been unable to find an appropriate place to stick this before now. Early in the season, The KoH brought home a Halloween decoration in the form of a skeleton head in a lantern. When you push a button, it's says in an eerie, echo-y voice, "Wha ha ha ha." After The Caterpillar's initial trepidation, she warmed up and began referring to it as the "wha ha ha."

As in: "Momma, turn ona wha ha ha?"

"Where wha ha ha?"

"I love you, wha ha ha!"


Somewhere after that, she learned that ghosts are really just people with sheets over their heads and began grabbing a blanket, throwing it over her head and saying, "Imahaha!"

So a skeleton is a "wha ha ha" and a ghost is a "ha ha" in our house.


I desperately want to remember these times, because I know very soon she will be referring to them as skeletons and ghosts and that will be a very sad day, indeed.

Here's she is trying to scare The KoH out of reading his book.



And lastly, if you don't celebrate Halloween because it's "the Devil's birthday" like some of the kids in The Dormouse's class, but prefer instead to attend a "Harvest Festival," like the one the had at The Dormouse's school this week because "Halloween" is just too offensive, consider this:


On an Evangelical church near my home: HARVEST FESTIVAL TRUNK OR TREAT OCTOBER 31. “Trunk or treat” I can understand. Some Mormon congregations do this too. It’s a way to suck all the fun out of trick-or-treating by handing out candy in a church parking lot from a row of car trunks. But “Harvest festival”? Uh, for the last time, people: Halloween is the eve of All Saints’ Day, part of the Christian liturgical calendar! “Harvest Festival” would be the pagan holiday! Not the other way around! This would be like a church replacing “Christmas Eve” with “Yule Festival” because some overzealous Sunday regular is anti-Santa. Okay, pastor, I get that you have some nuts in your congregation telling you that Halloween is all about the worship of Satan and his bastard stepchild Harry Potter. I don’t care. It’s time to man up to the weirdos.

Thanks to Ken Jennings for this bit of brilliance

Enjoy it - whatever you celebrate.
From Alice, The Caterpillar, The KingofHearts and The Dormouse

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A Good Pumpkin Farmer is Out Standing in Her Field

Posted on 10/30/2009 05:38:00 AM In:
My grandfather, who will be one hundred years old next month, told me this when I was about eight and I asked him what a pun was: "A good farmer is out standing in his field." I don't know why, but I've never forgotten it and every time we go to West Virginia to go pumpkin picking, this keeps running through my mind.



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Restraint is Not My Middle Name

Posted on 10/30/2009 04:32:00 AM
We may or may not have gone overboard at the pumpkin patch this year.






On the plus side, I'll be making a lot of pumpkin pies very soon.

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Autumn Treasure Hunt

Posted on 10/29/2009 11:51:00 PM
This may look like a bag of crap, but really, it's full of wondrous and spectacular treasures.


Don't see it? I'll explain. Last Saturday, when I'd been working pretty much twelve days straight, at some point I realized that I was starting to turn into Jimmy Jet
in that Shel Silverstein poem. So I decided to take an hour and go take a walk with the girls -- oh, and because The KoH had to work that Saturday and I could no more spend another day in the house with both girls than I could have tried out for a tight end position on the Pittsburgh Steelers and started in the next game. To make it more interesting, I took this idea from the Frugal Family Fun website that I'm currently obsessed with and decided to have an Autumn Treasure Hunt. I gave the list and a pencil to The Dormouse and we wandered off into the woods behind our house, praying that The Goatman or The Bunnyman didn't get us. I promised The Dormouse a blog post of our adventures so here's our list and a photo essay of what we collected:


Autumn Treasure Hunt

something that is alive

Our Something Alive caught us by surprise when we looked up to see this leaf suspended in mid-air. I postulated that a magician had been down the trail just before us, leaving random levitating leaves in his wake, but The Dormouse rejected my theory and instead found this gal:

a marbled orb weaver. She was so big that I'm pretty sure she could have tried out for the Pittsburgh Steelers and blown the competition away.

A little later on, we found this guy:

Random Frog. (too lazy to look through all the Google images to figure out what kind he is) Needless to say, these two are the only things that didn't make it into our bag and get carried home because we are wildlife warriors.

a leaf with jagged edges


an interesting weed

This weed wasn't all that interesting to me, but I guess when you've under four feet tall, you see the world in a different way. A much closer way.

a dry leaf

This leaf couldn't be much dryer.

a leaf with smooth edges

See? This, I would have put in the "interesting weed" category. But then again, I'm not the treasurer hunter.

three acorns

We had almost given this one up for lost. We stared at the ground for nearly an hour and never found a single acorn. Then as we were on our way back home and exiting the forest, I stopped to take something out of The Caterpillar's hands and this what was in it. I'm still not sure if she was really looking for them or not.

a seed from a tree

Is a gum tree pod technically a seed from a tree? I vote yes, because I was getting tired of chasing them around in the forest.

a twig


a pinecone

This was another really hard to find item, as there are no pine trees in the woods we visited. It was also another item we found just as we were leaving the woods to go home. What it was doing there, I do not know. But we finished the list, so I'm not complaining.

a handful of grass

You'd be surprised how many handfulls of grass we had to pick to find the right handfull of grass.

a red leaf


a yellow leaf


a green leaf


a smooth stone

This one almost caused a need for dry clothes. Also, there may or may not have been a dead turtle in the water right next to it. I went with the, "Oh I think he's probably just sleeping" excuse. Wonder how long before that will cease to work?

three little pebbles

There was quite a bit of discussion as to whether the stone above was also a pebble because it was not much bigger than these pebbles. It fell on disinterested ears.

wild berries

I can never remember if these are poisonous or not. I just subscribe to the "don't put any wild berries in your mouth at all" camp.

a leaf bud


a piece of bark


a tiny bit of moss


So that's it for our Autumn Treasure Hunt. Maybe next time I'll actually bury some treasure.


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Fighting Vainly that Old Ennui

Posted on 10/29/2009 11:49:00 AM
This has been the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad month from hell. Octobers usually are for some reason and, as such, we have renamed the month "Sucktober" to more adequately express our feelings about said month. A combination of four or five sixty-hour work-weeks, no sleep, school closures, several missed deadlines, children in trouble at school, an injury and subsequent argument with a day care provider or two, two drops of rain causing a three hour trip to the dentist (yes, D.C., it's sprinkling so let's all drive ONE), and a dishwasher that I thought we'd fixed but had to ultimately be replaced, thereby causing financial distress for next three or so months have all formed together to be a perfect storm of ennui.

After her dentist appointment this week, The Dormouse was given the chance to pick a small toy out of the toy bin (this dentist, wisely, does not give out lollipops to good little children who behave, but rather non-cavity-inducing toys). She took... oh about... SEVEN YEARS to peruse the entire selection of Oriental Trading Company crap and then carefully picked a set of neon green vampire teeth. Because, and this is reasoning for a six year old, they would go well with her Halloween costume. This costume:


Say no more. I know.

So after the dentist and the one and a half hour car ride to take her back to school and before the one hour car ride for me to get back to work, she asked me if I could walk her into the school and if she could wear her neon green vampire teeth into the office to play a prank on the attendance clerk. I let her do that but told her that she was not allowed to bring them to class. Instead, I agreed to take them and keep them safe in the car for later. She complied (reluctantly) and I walked out of the front door with a set of neon green vampire teeth in my pocket. But somewhere between the front door and my car, the teeth must have fallen out of my pocket and I lost them. I knew it almost immediately as I drove away but I was pretty sure I wasn't going to find them if I went back and thought one of three things might happen: a) she'd forget about them completely, b) she wouldn't care by the time she figured it out, or c) I'd buy another set at the drugstore.

Well, she did not forget about them completely. In fact, the SECOND she got off the bus that night, she asked for them and I had to fess up like a kid explaining to his mom how he'd lost his retainer again. And boy howdy, let me tell you, she DID care and there was much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth. So amidst all the tears, I promised that I would get her another set of vampire teeth. But then I didn't have time to do it that day, because hello? sixty-hour work week.

So last night I finished the latest Big Work Thing - as in The World's Gonna End if You Don't Finish It On Time But No One Cared When They All Missed Their Deadlines to Give Me Their Part of It, Big Work Thing - and took this morning off to take care of a few things like personal hygiene and buying a new set of neon green vampire teeth, mainly because she has her Halloween Costume Parade today and she "needs those vampire teeth to complete the look" since she wasn't allowed to bring an actual pirate sword to school. (the run on sentences, they just keep a'comin')

I didn't even care if they were neon green. I just wanted a crappy plastic set of vampire teeth. It was the one thing I thought I could accomplish, could control this month, could be successful at, buying that set of plastic vampire teeth, and I was bound and determined to accomplish it. So I went to not one, not two, not three (yadda yadda yadda, you get the picture here), but EIGHT, count them EIGHT different party stores, Targets, Wal-Marts, grocery stores and drugstores with The Caterpillar in tow - in and out of the car with inevitable complaints every time and chasing her through the store when I happened to look at the shelf to see if a tooth or two were hidden behind the gummy eyeballs - and none of them, NOT ONE of them in a twenty-mile radius, had a single pair of fake vampire teeth - TWO DAYS BEFORE HALLOWEEN.

I even considered finding a vampire, asking him to bite me, then once I was turned, going to school before the parade started and pulling her into the bathroom to bite her so by the parade she'd have her very own vampire teeth but, as you can imagine, that was only slightly less successful than finding the stupid plastic teeth in the first place. At some point, I realized that I should have just given up on a two dollar prop, but this was the one thing in my week I could control and dammit, I was GOING TO FIND THOSE TEETH. In the end, I was as unsuccessful as I have been with every other effin' thing I've tried to accomplish this month, and I know that it's just a stupid set of teeth and I'll remember this more than she will in three days, but I promised her and THE GUILT, IT BURNS.

Sometimes, when you're a parent, you look back over your single life and you think, "If anyone had told me I would waste a half a gallon of gas, an entire morning, and a good portion of my sanity to find a set of plastic molded vampire teeth to go with a pirate girl costume for a school parade, surely I would have called them crazy."

Look who's crazy now.

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New Twist on the Game of Peekaboo

Posted on 10/28/2009 05:03:00 PM

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Make-Ups

Posted on 10/28/2009 05:20:00 AM
Why oh why did I decide to have girls?


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A Place to Sit

Posted on 10/27/2009 06:56:00 AM
This is the last of my cemetery series of photos. So if this kind of topic bothers you, I apologize. You understand, don't you? Sometimes these things just have to run their course... like a disease.

One of my favorite authors (and I have a LOT of favorite authors) is Robert Fulghum, of
All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten fame. You might be surprised to know that he wrote stuff other than that famous essay and if you think that it's trite and overused, you might actually find that some of his other writings are much better than that one. You might also like his style so much that you start a blog and in your own very feeble way, try (and mostly fail) to write like him. I'm just sayin'...

Anyway, in one of his essays in this book, Fulghum ponders what kind of tombstone he'd like to have.

These words are chiseled into the edge of the bench and are an epitaph. For the bench is, in fact, a tombstone in a cemetery. And I would take you there to sit if I could. You wouldn't feel uncomfortable sitting on it, I promise. You wouldn't even notice what it was at first. It's right on the edge of a paved lane that curves through the burial grounds, placed so that you are clearly invited to use it. The closest living thing is a dawn redwood tree, comforting in its great age and size - a stout and worthy companion.

The placement of this bench, the words on the edge, the consciousness of the view - all say that someone went to a lot of trouble to be useful in death. A parting gesture of quiet generosity has been made.

I've spent a lot of time over the years thinking about death. My death, others' deaths, doesn't matter. Chalk it up to a combination of family history, morbid hobbies, and just generally thinking too much. But even before I read this essay by Fulghum, I think I'd decided that if I were to choose what my graves' memorial would be, it would be a stone bench. Nothing ostentatious, very little writing. Just a stone bench under a tree in a place where people could have a nice view and enjoy taking a rest.

I don't know when it became popular - maybe Fulgham's essay even had something to do with it - but when I was living in the West as a kid, I almost never saw a bench like this as a marker. Our local cemetery here, however, is filled with these benches.


There are even benches like this in the varying ethnic sections of this cemetery. I posted another photograph of one in this post.

But this bench I speak of is another story. Unique. No name. No conventional epitaph. And no dates. Just an unspoken open invitation for anyone to site and think. What marks this grave is the gift of silent companionship that bridges loneliness. In all the cemeteries I have visited around the world, I have seen nothing like it - and nothing so fine.


And it was on that bench, the summer morning after my fiftieth birthday, that I came to that moment in life when one crosses over from the abstract intellectual knowledge that all human beings die to the active realization that I will die. Me. Fulghum. Will not be. Sooner or later.

Not only did I realize that I will die, but I walked away thinking, Well, it's okay.

I don't know what it is... my past of helping out at the mortuary during summers when I visited family, my religious convictions, my philosophy of life, but death has never seemed like a big thing to me. In the best sense of the words: it's just another part of life. So why wouldn't a memorial shaped like a piece of furniture that is used every day in life be appropriate?

Just don't put "Bubba" on mine.


For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

- by W. S. Merwin

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Lions Oversee

Posted on 10/25/2009 05:17:00 AM
From the Chinese section of the cemetery. I am in love with these lions and couldn't stop taking photos of them. I like to think that at night they come to life and roam around the grounds, checking things out and surveying their domain. (Are you reading this Fox Studios? Could be an idea for another sequel to Night at the Museum. I'll let you know where to send my royalty check.) I also want to come back one day soon and when no one's looking, put little pink bows in their hair. Random, I know.





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In Lieu of Flowers

Posted on 10/24/2009 05:56:00 AM

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Married, 40ish mom of two (or three, or four, depending on how you keep score) who stepped through the lookinglass and now finds herself living in curiouser and curiouser lands of Marriage, Motherhood, and the Washington, D.C. Metro Area.

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