Halloween Pie

1984. My sister was a tree. She had a nest and birds on her head, too.
1984. My sister was a tree. She had a nest and birds on her head, too.

When I was a kid, the month of October sounded like the whir of the sewing machine as my mother made Halloween costumes for all three of us kids. Not content to follow a pattern, my mom designed and made our costumes from scratch. In kindergarten, I was a butterfly with four-foot-wide foam-filled, hand-painted wings. In third grade, I was a black widow spider with four stuffed arms hanging off of my black bodysuit. In sixth grade, I was a magician’s rabbit coming out of a giant hat. That one was a challenge to maneuver through doorways.

For my daughter’s first four Halloweens, my mom made costumes for her, too. She was a skunk, then a doggie, then a kitty, then a pig.

Before my daughter’s fifth Halloween, my mom called me up.

“When you and your sister and brother were kids, I had so much fun making costumes for you,” she said. “I’m worried that by making my grandkids’ costumes, I’m taking away the fun that you could have making costumes for them.”

Despite my assurances that I get more than enough pleasure just opening the box she mails to us from Ohio each year and seeing the hand-made costume nestled there among crumpled newspaper, she’s remained steadfast in her resolve to make me make costumes for my own children.

Aside from the year I spent hours swearing at my sewing machine to make my daughter a kangaroo costume she wore for less than an hour, my children’s costumes are decidedly more half-assed than mine were growing up. My kids are pretty okay with it now that they’ve made me promise not to use duct tape on their costumes anymore. Luckily there’s no injunction against using a hot glue gun.

The costumes aren’t the only things not getting the full treatment at our house. While my mother made our front yard into a graveyard with homemade styrofoam tombstones  (with inscriptions like, “Here lies Lester Moore. No Les, no more.”), our decorations this year included two “Trick-or-Treat” lawn stakes with the tags still on them from when I bought them three years ago and one squirrel-eaten jack-o-lantern.

I gave out really good candy, though. Each child got four pieces of organic fair-trade chocolate and a coupon for more (which also listed the reasons that it’s important to buy fair-trade). The chocolate was really good, but I dramatically overestimated how many kids would be knocking on our door this year. At least I’m set for Christmas. And possibly Valentine’s Day.

When my sister, brother, and I returned from our Halloween begging and stripped off our sweaty costumes, my parents had us dump all of our candy on the kitchen floor so they could go through it piece by piece and throw out any that looked like someone might have slipped a razor blade inside. At my house, we still dump out the candy but not for a safety check. We dump it and then tally each variety so we can graph the results.

This is how we discovered a disparity between my children’s trick-or-treat takes. Although my daughter had more total candy this year (43 pieces versus my son’s 31), my son had significantly more diversity of candy varieties (figures 1 and 2 below).

figure 1 (total candy: 43 pieces)
figure 1 (total haul: 43 pieces)
figure 2 (total candy: 31 pieces)
figure 2 (total haul: 31 pieces)

The difference in the total amounts, my spouse and I attributed to hand size, reasoning that our daughter could grab more candy with her eight-year-old hands than her four-year-old brother could grab with his smaller hands. But this didn’t explain the difference in variety. Maybe our daughter just knew what she wanted and so focused on Kit-Kats and Three Musketeers bars, while our son has yet to refine his tastes. I mean, he turned down Kit-Kats (which he calls “Kitty-Kats” and insists are his favorite) for Junior Mints. Clearly we have some work to do as parents.

For me, Halloween evokes memories of elaborate decorations and hand-made costumes, but my children will remember pie charts.

Written as part of the Remember the Time Blog Hop, Halloween theme.

Please post your Halloween anecdotes, candy hypotheses, and suggestions for additional analyses in the comments below. And check back next year for the Halloween 2014 Candy Report. Hopefully next year we’ll have p-values.

10 Replies to “Halloween Pie”

  1. If my husband ever sees this blog post, I have a feeling we will be doing the same thing next year. So funny!!! You know, we once tried to teach the kids about the voting process by having an election about which candy was a favorite among family members. So guess we have already mingled with mixing math and candy.

    And your daughter certainly has great taste in candy…she made out like bandit.


    1. My daughter loves graphs, so she was all over this activity. When my kids get older, maybe I can teach them about statistics using their trick-or-treat spoils. Oh, my goodness! I just thought of a great probability exercise I can do with my daughter with her candy bag! Maybe I can write a sequel post about that…


    1. We are a graph-loving family, and their godparents are mathematicians, so math is a fairly strong influence in their lives.


  2. I made graphs charting my daughter’s poops and pees when she was a newborn. Creating charts must be a new trend in parenting.


    1. OMGosh! I made charts for my baby’s feedings, poops, and pees when she was a newborn, too! LOL At the time, i didn’t think it was weird at all, but now I think I was totally weird! LOL


      1. When I was a doula (before my daughter was born), I had clients who made Excel spreadsheets of their babies’ feedings and bodily functions. For a while there before smartphones, there was a special device (not sure if it was just in Silicon Valley or nationwide) that tracked feedings and all that other stuff, then you could put the data onto your computer. Now I think they have apps for all of that stuff. Even back then, I knew a midwife who had a contraction-timing program on her PDA. I’m not sure if it’s weird or not, but that level of record keeping sure triggers my anxiety.


    2. I wonder if it’s just trying to apply skills we already have to a completely foreign realm. Like, “I don’t know anything about babies, but I know how to make an Excel spreadsheet.” I never went that far (my daughter wasn’t keen on letting me use the computer when she was a newborn), but I did keep pages and pages of records for a while. With my second, I did no recordkeeping whatsoever. But I did accidentally get his first word (turtle) on video.


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