Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Devil and Mrs. Potato Head

In one of my earliest Halloween memories, I'm five years old and already the kids are knocking at the door, even though my mother's only come home from work, and my father, too.  I remember that they took turns shelling out candy, while they scrounged up a costume for me.  I recall being disappointed when my father suggested they put his old coat on me so that I could be a hobo, then my delight as he lit a match and burned the butt of a wine cork to rub on my face--dirtying me up enough to satisfy my five-year-old sense of authenticity.  In my memory, crumpled newspapers are wrapped in a blue bandanna that hangs from the end of a stick I carried--although I suspect this is just my grown-up self filling in the details.  In actuality, I would have carried a plastic shopping bag.

By the time I was seven, I'd taken Halloween matters into my own hands, designing a devil's costume--my best friend was an angel.  I wore red shorts over red tights, and the same red turtle neck of my school picture that year.  I carried a big pitchfork made of tinfoil and wore horns of the same, attached to a hair band, as well as a tail safety-pinned to my bottom.

This is the last Halloween costume I can remember wearing as a child, although, of course, it isn't the last one I wore. I trick-or-treated well into high school and then there were parties and dances every year after that, right on through college and into my early years with Balthazar, when we dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head.  I remember that year well: the trip to Goodwill, and the fabric store, and the hours we spent together on the floor sewing felt to foam.

I'm not sure why I can't remember my costumes of the fifteen years in between the devil and Mrs. Potato Head, but I suspect (because each year my parents had a little more money than the last) that these costumes that have escaped my memory were of the purchased sort, and not homemade.

Last week, two weeks in advance of Halloween 2012, The Storm and I went costume shopping for her.  She had a particular outfit in mind, one she'd seen online, and sure enough when we arrived to the party store, there it was on the wall with the hundred others that I'll see over and over again on my doorstep on October 31st; the hundred others that will make their way door-to-door across America.

But, since it was only two weeks until Halloween, the store was already sold out of The Storm's size. She tried on a slightly larger one--but it was too large.  She opted for a second choice, to the same results. And a third.  

"Why don't we go home and make you a costume?" I said.  The entire costume-shopping experience was becoming a bit of a Halloween nightmare: the aisles were overcrowded; children were throwing tantrums; the staff was miserable; and the bright fluorescent lights seemed to magnify everything, including the cheap quality of the overpriced satins and plastics.

"Maybe I'll try that one," The Storm said, pointing to a fourth choice, instead.

"Sorry," said another dead-eyed staff person.

"Well, I'll take that one then," she said of a little red devil's costume.

"I was a devil one Halloween," I told her.  "I remember it perfectly."  And I told her all about my big pitchfork of tinfoil. 

She wasn't really interested. 
I wonder if she'll remember those sparkly wings thirty-five years from now?  I don't think so.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Fall's Colors

Fall in Las Vegas is a wonderful time!  Even without all the golden hues.
When the summer heat finally lets up and the temperatures drop into the pleasant 80's, and even into the 70's, folks start to venture outside again.  In that way, it's sort of like spring everywhere else.  Anyway, after a long hot desert summer, we're making the most of it.
Here are some pics of our Sunday morning walk.

Of course, we stopped to check out butterflies....

And the ponds and waterfalls (courtesy of the Hoover Dam and some hefty HOA fees)....

We climbed a few trees....

And every few blocks we stopped to water and rest Shadow... 
Meet Shadow! She's our five-and-a-half-year-old miniature schnauzer.  (Here's the funny story about how she came to be a part of our family; page 27, "The Ultimatum":  

Until, eventually, there was no more water, and our slow-going walk had moved well beyond the cool of early morning, so the black and furry Shadow--who works ten times as hard as necessary, for all the leash-pulling she does--could no longer go on.

While The Coop had a sit down, Mom jogged the remaining mile home to fetch the truck, to save the dog (who swallowed the fly?) I don't know why.

"You love that dog," says Balthazar.

"I don't," I reply. (See "The Ultimatum.")

Anyway, once home, we put on our painting clothes and the kids went at the family room walls, graffiti-style. The cooler weather has inspired us to finally decorate the home we purchased last winter. (That and I'm not nearly in the car so much, since Sunshine left ballet, so I have time now.)

It was a bit bold of us to settle on gray and red--we're generally more taupe-like folks.  But, I gotta say, I'm loving the contrast!

We hope to have the whole house finished by Christmas. Pics of the dining room, next week. 

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Mini Me

"Check out that sky," Hollywood said to his teammates, earlier this week, when Vegas bestowed another beautiful sunset upon us.

14 teenage boys turned to look at him with blank faces.

"Yep," he said.  "I'm turning into my mom."

Then last night he fell into the couch with an old person's groan: "Now, I'm turning into Dad."


When The Storm did something to remind me of my younger self, I pulled in tight on her face and dropped my finger to her nose. "Mini me," I said.

Not missing a beat, she lifted her finger to mine: "Big me."


A friend coming to town was in touch, last night, to remind me that we were together when we went on our first dates.  It was a Friday night, just a few weeks into the school year, when we met our dates, two school boys, in front of the movie theatre where our parents had dropped us off.  Inside, we proceeded to make out with our young studs, amongst a theatre packed with families while ET begged to phone home on the big screen. 

I laughed to recall the spectacle.

Then Sunshine arrived home from her Friday night movie date and suddenly it wasn't so funny anymore.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Why are you telling me this?"

Just over two years ago, after ten pleasant and sheltered years in the midwest, when our family moved to Las Vegas, I was panicked. I feared for my innocent children and how the would fare in the big bad Sin City. 

Immediately, I began exposing them to things they had never been exposed to before.  Movies and television shows and video games they'd been denied were suddenly allowed, encouraged. 

I taught them that the s-word actually referred to shit, not stupid, and I began saying stupid regularly, until it was a word we all used. I said shit almost as often, and other words, too, to enduce gasps and bring small hands to cover thier open mouths. 

Feeling it would be unfair and cruel to send a still-believing boy to middle school in Vegas, I pulled Hollywood aside, even though it was only August, to explain the truth about Santa Claus.  

"Why are you telling me this?" he said, angered and heartbroken.

"Because I love you," I told him.  "And you need to know." 

I cringed to drive by so many billboards with so many giant and mostly-naked women squinting bedrooms eyes at my children in the backseat, but I drove by them anyway, waiting for the questions to surface.  When the car remained quiet I pointed and commented out loud to Balthazar.  My intent was to encourage conversation, and hence an understanding about where we were, and who we were in the midst of all of it.  Although, I wasn't so sure myself.

Each one of the kids reacted differently. 

The Storm grew big-eyed and intrigued with the strip, the bright lights, the carnival atmosphere, the giddiness and boisterousness of the people visiting from all over the world, Iowa included. (Today, she smiles slyly at it all, as if possessing a savvy understanding, even an amusement, for the underside of humankind, our weaknesses and distractions, so that I don't think I did her a disservice by exposing her so young--Only the future will tell.)   

Sunshine, a roll-with-the-punches kind of girl, seemed to take it all in stride, asking questions here and there, but accepting it for what it was--just people different than us, who had been presented with different options and who'd made different choices, as a result. 

It was in her eighth-grade health class, where confidentialities were shared amongst thirteen-year-old girls, that she better came to know the world she was a part of--the world we are all a part of no matter where we live.  On certain days she came home properly horrified--for parents who did drugs in front of their children, for absent mothers, and nasty fathers, for all that I would prefer to have sheltered her from, forever..., but that would be the ultimate disservice.

Hollywood was always a little fearful in those early days. Weaned on Christian preschool, just the name, Sin City, didn't sit well with him.  He laid low that first year then came out of a his shell in the second.  During a history class, when the term came up, he raised his hand to ask, "What's a prostitute?"  The kid behind him poked him; the teacher scrunched her brow, he said, trying to determine if he was indeed serious.

"It's a person who sells sex for money," I explained, at home that evening.

"Oh, my God! Why would somebody want to do that?"

"That's a good question," I said, and we talked in depth about the oldest profession in the world.

Now, Hollywood is in the eighth grade.  The health lessons are only a few months away, and already I can see that he--who wants so desperately to still believe in Santa Claus, in magic, in good, in people--is in for some serious heartbreak. 

Some gloriously educational, serious heartbreak.