Monday, October 25, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

This is the first year that both of my kids truly understand the spirit of Halloween. You dress up, you get candy. The end. It is a simple holiday, but second only to Christmas in fun. This being my fifth year of actively engaging in the holiday, I have learned some very simple lessons that I will share with you about children, costumes, and candy.

1. Never, ever put your child in a sports-themed costume unless that team is winning. For example, this would not be the year to send them around in Phillies gear. I learned this lesson the hard way when I took my then almost two-year old out and about in an Eagle’s cheerleading costume during a losing streak. She was inexhaustible and spent three full hours trick or treating. She was also very, very confused as to why some adults kept pulling the candy bowl away, yelling rude things at her, and making her work twice as hard for her treat as the next kid. You wouldn’t think she looked anything like Andy Reid, but yet, she kept getting treated like him. Never again.

2. Let them pick what they like out of the candy bowl. That same year, my daughter decided that lollipops were her candy of choice. Bowl after chocolate filled bowl, she went for the suckers and even requested a special bag just for carrying her lollipops. With visions of dental bills dancing in my head, I kept trying to steer her away from sugar on a stick. She kept going back for more. We came home with enough DumDums and Blowpops for several raves. She never ate one. Turns out, she had no actual interest in them as candy and just liked how they fit in her hand.

3. Plan ahead. This year, my daughter is Jessie from Toy Story. She gave her brother the choice of being either Buzz or Woody. (She always picks for him. Last year, she was Princess Leia to his Ewok. Another year, she was Dorothy and he was the Cowardly Lion.) He chose Buzz. I bought both (and by bought, I mean, I got both Buzz and Woody pajamas, which are the actual basis of his costume). And wouldn’t you know, turns out he is afraid of the inflatable wings I bought for Buzz. Ten dollars in foresight saved me a fortune in agida.

4. If the kids needs a weapon to make the costume complete, choose a different costume. At a Halloween event this past weekend, I saw a kid dressed as a gangster, complete with prop Tommy gun. Does he watch a lot of The Sopranos on Saturday mornings? I also saw a kid dressed in full Viking gear, complete with anvil. Indy with his whip and Obi-Wan with his light saber is one thing, but an anvil? Why don’t you just give him a mace and call it a day. Surely kids totally hopped up on sugar and excitement will remember to always play nice with their medieval weaponry.

5. Donate your candy. My children are like Ferengi on their quest for candy, but unlike gold-pressed latinum, candy, once gathered, accrues nothing but dust. They gather untold pounds of it but really can only eat a few ounces without getting heartily sick. Sure, those first few days of picking through and eating all the good stuff (which in our house are any Reese’s products and the 100,000 Grand bars) is fun for me and my husband, but my kids lose interest the moment we finish the first sort. So every year, I find a place that sends the candy oversees to our military troops. Just make sure you don’t pick out all the good stuff. No one wants to receive a box of Tootsie Rolls.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas?

It is mid-October. Mums are in bloom, kids are prepping for Halloween, pumpkins are being picked, and apple recipes are being tested in kitchens all over the Northeast. So of course, Wal-Mart sent out a press-release about Christmas.

Now, I love Christmas. There is much making of merry come holiday season. But this isn’t it. It isn’t even cold out. I can still shop in sandals. Back to school shopping should not morph directly into Christmas shopping –it’s just not right.

But of course, being the glutton for punishment, I clicked on the Top Picks link to see what toys I am going to studiously avoid this year. And number one on that list would be the child-sized version of Beer Pong. Sure, they are calling it “Cuponk” but the basic stratagem is the same: bounce balls off table into cup. First and foremost, what crazy-ass parent chooses to give their child a projectile and unleash it into their dining room? “Sure son, please feel free to wing that bouncy ball as hard as you can at your great-great grandmother’s dining room table. Just make sure you don’t hit the china cabinet. And make sure to chug your milk if you get it in the cup.” Please. This gift will indeed be hard to find this year if only because every college student in America is going to snatch it up at the first opportunity.

Then there is, of course, the newest version of the Disney Princesses. The marketing machine at Disney is nothing if not robust. At 18 inches high, the damn things are practically child-sized and are scary as hell. Let me tell you what – until those things actually start doing the domesticated chores they embrace so happily in their movies, cooking, cleaning, mending, etc., then the dolls don’t need hands large enough to hold a spoon, broom, or needle. And I don’t know what a “Monster High” is, but I can sure as hell promise you that my daughter will not be finding out anytime soon. Those dolls are freaky.

I’ll skip the remote-controlled Bigfoot, monster truck, and motorcross racing bike. My son can destroy things well enough on his own, thanks. I would like to know what idiot created the Hot Wheels Stealth Rides though. A remote-controlled car that is smaller than a deck of cards but retails for $24.99 just seems like a really bad idea. Any wagers on how long before that particular toy gets lost? It might be easier to just buy one of those monster collections of Match Box cars and throw them into random corners and under hard-to-reach pieces of furniture and call it a day.

Also on my do-not-buy list, the Nerf N-Strike Stampede which looks exactly like a miniature machine gun, but in bright orange. The perfect toy for keeping terrorists off the San Francisco Bay Bridge! I will also be studiously avoiding the weird “Loopz” game that does nothing more than remind me of that really uncomfortable Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Wesley has to stop everyone from playing that sexually-charged video game alongside a fetal Ashley Judd. Riker’s “o” face gave me nightmares for weeks and the thought of seeing a preschool version on my son’s face leaves me at a loss for words.

However, I do like the Pillow Pets, though I’m not sure how they are a new toy being as half the people I know bought one last year. The Sing-a-ma-jigs seem cute, it not really poorly named and Electronic Scrabble just seems like a waste of batteries especially since it appears to be a rip-off of Boggle more than anything else. The Leapster Explorer seems fun, but my daughter is still quite happy with her regular Leapster and until I need to pass it along to her younger brother, she isn’t getting a new one.

So, once again, the Must Have list leaves me cold and short of ideas. Once again, I will have to undertake exploratory trips to toy stores, will have to leave catalogues open for perusing, and will have to plant ideas in their heads like I do every year. Once again, I will try to get them to want what I want them to have, not what marketing companies have decided they need based on supply. But for now, I am going to ignore Christmas entirely. I still have Halloween costumes to finish and lots and lots of candy to gather. Only after the pumpkins have been thoroughly ravaged by squirrels and socks need to be worn on a regular basis will I start Christmas shopping. And no amount of prodding from Wal-Mart will make me start any earlier.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Adventures in Bargain Shopping

My excuse this week was that my paying gig (I’m a freelance editor) was pretty busy, forcing me to slouch off on my non-paying, but way more fun habit of writing for you, my little tiny reading audience. So, in the style of David Sedaris, I am going to include a few very short anecdotes about shopping to get you through the long holiday weekend.

Size Does Matter
I recently decided I needed a new sports bra so that I could batten down my baguettes so that I could exercise without being hit in the eye. While at the store, I decided to try on shirts. There were nine regular dressing rooms and one family-sized/handicapped one. Guess which one the itty bitty ninny used to try on her teeny weeny skinny-legged jeans? That’s right, the family one. I guess it had the best views of her ass. When she finally emerged, she seemed completely surprised that there were two kids right outside her half-door, which means she must have been deaf as well as stupid because Thing One and Thing Two were not exactly quiet as they waited. The best part of this shopping trip – the shirts I waited ten minutes to try on didn’t even fit and the sports bras didn’t come in my size. I guess only skinny people are supposed to work out. The rest of us will just have to make do with oversized t-shirts and heat-stroke inducing track pants made out of itchiest, sweatiest blend of fabrics known to mankind.

To add insult to injury, I then decided to try on coats. I currently wear either a shapeless fleece that, while toasty, isn’t exactly flattering or my men’s Old Navy pea coat that gives me shoulders like a linebacker and is heavier than it is warm. Guess what I found? First, that I actually do have shoulders like a linebacker, which makes me look ridiculous in short-waisted, wide-lapel jackets, and second, that coats that look oh so jaunty and hip on the rack just make me look and gigantic and hippy . Sigh. Over to the dreaded “women’s” section I went only to discover that the material in my size is practically fire-retardant. It was shiny and slippery and looked like they put the inner lining on the outside by accident. Why Lord? Why can’t fat people look nice too? I dream of some day owning a long, brown trench, reminiscent of Captain Mal’s. Of course, in my dream, I don’t look like a giant sack of potatoes in it, but that’s a whole other problem. In reality, I just want a coat that fits well, that keeps me warm, and that matches my Gryffindor scarf. (You know you want one.) Maybe someday, that dream will come true.

Mine! Mine! Mine!
I know many people view shopping as a competitive sport and we all know that unless it has books in it, stores don’t interest me at all. But unless you are a superstar and can afford to have a shop closed down for your own personal amusement, then share the space. Don’t park your oversized cart filled with oversized products directly in the middle of the aisle at the local warehouse store. Don’t go to a consignment sale and grab all the costumes off the Halloween rack to drag to a dark, deserted corner to go through in secret. You aren’t Gollum and the clothes aren’t all that precious. Share. You do not exist in a bubble and the world is not your oyster. (Shuck you if you think it is). If you want it, take it and move on. Don’t stand there and ruminate over the bargain bin. Trust me, if you don’t need it, then even if it is cheap, you are still paying more for it than it is worth. Don’t read all the labels in the baking aisle on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. People have been killed for less. And finally, don’t offer advice to a harried parent who is desperately trying to just get through the grocery store before the screaming, crying, whining child she is carting around self-implodes. A knowing smile and an “I’ve been there” grin will go a lot further than any “kind” words you want to offer and those enormous, difficult to maneuver driving carts she is probably shoving with all of her might through the store are going to hurt like a sonafabitch when she just gives in and runs over your toes with them.