Halloween Pie 2017

This Halloween continued the trend of child-led costume assembly that began last year. I’m all in favor because it appeals to my general laziness and to my “bah, humbug” attitude about holidays, especially holidays that don’t involve roast turkey.

So, my children took the reins with decorating and costume assembly while I served as a consultant and occasional assistant. There’s a lot less swearing this way.

My daughter used a white bedsheet to create a chiton (I helped with safety pins) and I put her hair in a bun, and she became a woman from Ancient Greece. She looked so tall and confident and womanish it made my heart hurt to look at her.

My son donned a black sweatshirt, black sweatpants, my red scarf as a sash, and two coffee filters around his neck as a 17th-century collar to become Albrecht von Wallenstein, whose army helped out Frederick II and the Holy Roman Empire during the Thirty Years’ War. For more information about Albrecht von Wallenstein and the Thirty Years’ War, visit your local library or Wikipedia.

They hit the very quiet streets and came back with a decent haul, probably because our neighbors were, like us, desperate to get rid of their candy on a strangely kid-light Halloween.

As is the tradition here on Imperfect Happiness, here are the candy pies:

Daughter's Candy 2017

Son's Candy 2017

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Nursery Song

Today, my daughter recounted for us a story she’d read about a pregnant woman who put headphones on her belly so her baby could listen to music. When my children stopped laughing, I told them I’d done just that when I was pregnant the first time.

I’d read somewhere that if you play a song for your baby in utero, it will help soothe her after she’s born. Something with a strong beat was recommended so baby could hear it through the white noise of the womb. It seemed pretty low-risk, so every night before bed I would put the headphones on my belly and play this song for my daughter:


After she was born, it did work pretty well to calm her when she was crying. So did running the vacuum or the hair dryer, but this way was more pleasant for her dad and me. As a toddler my daughter called it her “crying song,” but the actual title is “Captain Badass” by Songs: Ohia.

Today, my children giggled at the title, of course. When I played the song for them, they weren’t particularly impressed—“Okay. Can we eat lunch now?”—but I loved it as much as I ever had.

“Will you stand up for your one chance? Will you stand up for love?”

Halloween Pie 2016

It’s Halloween once again! This year to celebrate their third reading of The Lord of the Rings (including an audiobook and a read-aloud by each of their parents), my daughter dressed up as Legolas and my son dressed up as Aragorn. I provided transportation to the thrift store and the funds to purchase items, but the design and assembly of the costumes was otherwise all them (thank goodness; I am not a costume person, and this development dramatically reduced my Halloween-related stress).

The costumes might change, but not our tradition of charting their candy haul. Here’s how it all broke down this year:





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The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

903A group of children thrown together by circumstance and geography begin playing the Egypt Game in an unused storage lot. It’s all fun and games until things start to get eerie.

Things I liked:

1) It’s a story set in a college town in California. I’m thinking it’s Berkeley, although Snyder never names it in the story.

2) Snyder deftly navigates the subtleties of childhood relationships, including the awkward things we do as children (and as adults) when we’re feeling uncertain of ourselves and our place in the world. This felt a little Harriet the Spy-ish, in a good way.

3) The group of friends is diverse in age, race, family constellation, and economic background but while the characters and the narrator remark upon these differences at times, they’re not the primary focus of the story.

4) Marshall. My kids and I agree: that kid kicks butt.

Things I didn’t like:

1) It was a little boring at times. Maybe this is because I half-listened to the audiobook before I finished the book-book.

2) The ending was…anti-climactic. But then, what do I expect? I think it was in Huckleberry Finn (or maybe Tom Sawyer?) where Mark Twain talks about the difficulty of picking a spot to end a story about a child because childhood just keeps on going (pardon my fumbling and un-fact-checked paraphrase). Maybe that difficulty is the root of some of my discontent with the ending of The Egypt Game.

Things I found interesting but kind of neutral:

1) I never thought of making an Egyptian crown out of a bleach bottle. Genius, but I’d have to be a way awesomer mom to attempt it.

2) The climax reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird. I won’t go into detail because I’m married to someone who hates spoilers and has left me very nervous about accidentally spoiling stories (What happened to the Titanic, you ask? I won’t be the one to tell you), but it just reminded me of that one part in Harper Lee’s book.

Bottom line:

This was a solid book. My kids and I enjoyed it, but it didn’t blow my mind.

How to build a house in an afternoon.

I share genetics with some very crafty people.

When we were kids, my mom would hand-sew our costumes each Halloween, often creating the patterns herself or dramatically modifying existing patterns to bring into reality the costumes of her imagination—a tree (with a nest and birds on top), a rabbit in a hat, a black widow spider, a butterfly with wings so giant I had to fold them and walk sideways through doorways. Now that she’s no longer winning storybook parades vicariously through her children, my mom newly decorates her dining room table each month to match the holiday or season. Read More

Raising Readers: Selecting Books

A week or so ago, I wrote about how my spouse and I accidentally created a Reading Culture at our house, and then accidentally inculcated our children into it.

Today, I wanted to write about how our kids get books into their hands. Do they read just what they’re assigned to read by parents and teachers, or do they read only what they pick for themselves? Do my spouse and I limit what they are allowed to read, or do we let them  read whatever printed materials they get their hands on?

In our house, the short answer to both questions is: It’s something in between. Read More

Raising Readers: Reading Culture

I was sitting and reading one afternoon last fall when the cat got up from my lap and, wakened from the world of the novel on my lap, I realized that the house was very quiet. So, I decided to check on the kids. I looked in on them in the room we’ve dubbed “The Library,” and both of my  children were sitting on the couch, reading silently to themselves. They looked up at me and smiled and then looked back at their books.

“Holy cow!” I thought. “Finally, we can all read as a family!” Smiling, I went back to my book and my couch in the other room.

Friends have asked me how we got to this point. How did we get our kids to love reading? How do we get them to choose reading over screens and devices? In a recent post, Cheyanne of Tangerine Wallpaper posited some related questions, and I figured the topic of reading was worth a blog post (or two).

Really, we didn’t set out to make our kids into readers, but when I look at our house, I realize that we have developed something of a reading culture in our house, and even though we didn’t develop this reading culture for the purpose of promoting a love of reading in our kids, I think it contributes to the reading habits my kids have developed. Here’s what our reading culture looks like: Read More

Fruit Punctuation

This morning while I was peeling and chopping and tossing things into the slow cooker, my six-year-old told me about something in a book he was reading.

“It says ‘Anakin’ and then it has those big bananas,” he explained.

“Big bananas?” I asked, clearing onion skins into the compost bucket.

“Yes. You know, those big word bananas that explain what things are.”

I turned and looked directly at him. “Big…word bananas?”

“They’re like giant commas around words.”

“Oh! You mean parentheses?”

A cloud of deep thought crossed his face and then cleared into a smile of recognition.

“Yes!” he said. “Parentheses!”

Big word bananas. Okay.


To Drink Deeply

“Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars.”

-from Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Over breakfast, the kids and I decided that we’d do our lessons, eat a quick lunch, and then arrive at the wildlife sanctuary early so we could take a hike and enjoy the weirdly warm December weather before our nature class.

We worked well and ate lunch quickly, but by the time we were on the road, we’d somehow lost most of the extra time we’d figured in. We discussed it on the way and decided that if we didn’t mind being a few minutes late for class (which we didn’t), we’d still have time for a quick hike.

We pulled into the parking lot with twenty minutes to spare. Perfect! We jumped out of the car, ran to the office to check in and let them know we might be a smidge late, and then hit the bathroom.

By the time we were at the trailhead, it was five minutes until class.

How the heck had we lost fifteen minutes? Read More

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Giver
The Giver by Lois Lowry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Oh, Honey! Are you crying?”

My daughter nodded and sniffled as I sat down on the side of her bed and leaned over to hug her.

“Can you tell me what’s wrong?”

After a pause she said, “That book,” in a choked voice.

I knew she meant The Giver. We’d gotten the paperback as a freebie at her pediatrician’s office more than a year ago, and my 10yo had picked it up that morning and read the whole thing by bedtime, reading a bit here and there between her lessons.

“Oh, Honey!” I repeated. “It’s a pretty intense book, isn’t it?”

She nodded with her face hidden in my shoulder.

“Would you like me to read it tomorrow so we can talk about it?”

She nodded again. And so the next day, I read The Giver. Read More