Best Holiday of All Time

Dear Family,

I just love it. Making stuff, wearing costumes, going out at night, trading treats with people, adults and kids all having fun together...Halloween is just totally and completely awesome. There was this semi-dry spell of about ten years, between Growing Up and Having Children, where I had no good excuse to go to the effort of making a costume, etc. But no more!

Ben made his own outfit this year--he was an owl, and when he showed off his "wingspan" he gave a signature owl bounce/hop while hooting, "Who Who Who-WHOOOO!" To his great credit, he actually wore his paper mask for nearly the entire 1.5 hours he was out walking the neighborhood. I was very impressed.

Jem refused all offers of costuming, even his little yellow rain jacket. I stopped explaining his missing costume after our neighbor noted that his street clothes only denoted that Jem was an _off-duty_ firefighter.

And this year, for the first time in a decade, _I_ made a Halloween costume! And one for Jeff, too (whose role was creative inspiration and also helper with construction).

I had this somewhat belated realization when I walked into Michael's crafts emporium on Friday: that I am now an adult, and can conceivably purchase ANYTHING I WANT in the whole store. I ended up just getting some red tempera paint, brushes, and foam board, but I gotta say: I felt those chills of _Creating_ as I carefully crafted our super-lifelike costumes on Saturday afternoon.

We were two street signs: Jeff was "Yield," and I was "No Parking Any Time." (Incidentally, these unwittingly became amusing Rorschach tests, as people read all sorts of meaning into the fact that Jeff was "Yield" and I was "No Parking Any Time."

I just LOVE Halloween!


We gave out books for trick-or-treaters, after a hot tip from our neighbor who suggested going to the book sale on $.10 day. I thought it was a great idea, although Jeff didn't totally believe that our house was a hit with the 8-15 age group. I say: if they didn't like it, there was no shortage of sugar available elsewhere.

Along with our downstairs neighbors, Jeff helped string up a mini zip-line with a ghostly witch on a string, who slid down the line just as kids at the bottom were choosing their treats out of a bowl. It was great.

Only in Ithaca (and a few select other places): Our neighbor wore scrubs and cowboy boots, because he was dressed as "Western Medicine."

Incidentally: I bet you can guess that Ben's and Jem's first Halloween candy ever was given out by our neighbor...and it was: homemade raw dehydrated "candy" made from dates and coconut.

The boys thought the candies were awesome, and were emboldened to try the next handouts: vegan, organic rice crispy treats (Jem liked but Ben didn't), naturally-colored lollipops (Ben didn't like and Jem wasn't allowed to try because soon enough he'll be addicted without any help from sugar-on-a-stick), and vegan, gluten-free cookies (a hit with both boys).

Quite possibly the worlds' most PC trick-or-treating. (Yeah, Brothers of Mine, I _know_ this won't last forever, but I'm enjoying it for now!)


The only thing better than the best holiday ever, is that Athena and Daisy and Denise came for the weekend to celebrate with us!

We even managed to fit in a little time trying on jewelry and clothes and giggling a lot...before Athena headed back to her job and her boyfriend, Denise headed back to her job and _her_ boyfriend, and Daisy headed off in the direction of home (which is now BRAZIL!!), and her _fiance_. And Jem needed a nap, so I went off to nurse him to sleep, while my _husband_ went to take our other son into the woods to catch some critters.

Kind of crazy. It seems like just yesterday we were all teenagers! Sometimes, do you ever get the feeling that you're just an impostor, that you're only pretending to be a responsible adult??

I do.

It was one more of those "high school reunion" experiences that keep coming my way despite never having gone to high school.


So I just have to tell you, my son is growing up quickly and is a remarkably astute observer of the world. The other day while leafing through "Sierra" magazine, I happened upon an article about mountaintop coal removal, which is a heinous and horrible thing and may all the perpetrators rot.

Except that, more to the point: Ashley Judd (whom I've just googled, and appears to be an attractive and famous movie star) has teamed up with the Sierra Club to denounce this mining practice. Judd was pictured in the magazine, smiling and being all Activist-y and Supportive. And Jem looked at the photo and said, "Mama!"

Doesn't the boy have good taste?


Fermentation is SO COOL! The kraut is coming along nicely, in case you're wondering. I've been emboldened by the website of Sandor Ellix Katz , which I finally read through after about half a dozen people said, "You gotta check out that gay guy from California who writes about fermenting!"

Aside from the salt (which seems to be somewhat negotiable, depending on your technique), the risks of fermented foods appear negligible at worst, and super-healthy at best. So what have we got to lose??

Counter space, says Jeff. And it's true, it DOES take up a lot of space when you have to soak everything-and-its-active-cultures for 1-150 days before you eat it. But artisan quality takes artisan attention and time. And counter space.

(I'll let you know whether the daikon-radish-and-carrot pickles turn out tasty or terrible.)


Ben is so motivated to go out in the woods that I can't keep up with him. It's awesome--I finally have in my son what some people cherish in their dogs: a really important reason to get outside.

When Ben found out that Grandma Ruth might arrive during Jem's naptime (when I often disappear to work in the bedroom), he did some quick calculations. "Just know," he told me importantly, "that we _might_ be out on a walk in the woods if you come out and we're not here."


Some things I've noticed:

Quinoa, which is a seed with individual grains the size of a ".", ALWAYS partially spills on the floor when I'm transferring it into a container for leftovers. This bugs the crap out of me, but I can't seem to do anything about it.

There is no possible way to position Jem in bed so that he doesn't rotate perpendicular by the chilliest part of the night. I don't understand why the instinct for staying under covers is so absent in young humans.

We do laundry and Mondays and Thursdays, which means that there is slightly less laundry to wash on Thursday. There are also slightly higher dividends for actually folding the laundry if it's done on Thursday, because you get more days without the clean-clothes pile on the bed before doing laundry again creates another pile. Laundry can make you really Zen if you think about it right, and really put-upon if you don't.


Several times this week, people did things that were (or so I told my children), really "stupid." But in fact, I was lying so that my kids will not find out until later in their lives that I am actually petty and bitter. Because those "stupid" people I was referring to were actually morons and assholes. (Am not sure how best to be both honest and sensitive to Ben's and Jem's tender ages, so I chose the white-lie technique.)

Not to mention a case in point, but: on Friday, while downtown, I searched for ten minutes before finding a parking spot that wasn't blocking someone's driveway, or otherwise illegal. There was only one spot, and I parallel parked in it perfectly. When we came back to the car two hours later, an enormous Bright Blue Pickup had parked in front of me, _directly_ blocking a driveway, and approximately 2.45 microns from my front bumper.

I could feel an enormous welling of annoyance inside, as I walked (aaall the way) around BBP in order to put Jem into his seat, despite the fact that women in, say, sub-Saharan Africa would laugh heartily at my "hardship."

"What a..._stupid_ thing to do!" I said to Ben, beginning to utilize the grand total of two inches of clearance (located _behind_ my car) to rock back and forth to ease our way out of the space. "OOOps!" I said brightly, as I "accidentally" bumped into BBP on each forward rock. "I can't believe how... _stupid_ people can be!" I explained to Ben. "Stupid, stupid, stupid! ...Maybe I'll leave them a note," I said, nearly inspired to actually get out of the car and leave a scrawled missive on the window.

"What would you say?" Ben asked.

And that was the problem. I could write "What a stupidhead/asshole you are!" but it probably wouldn't make the person repent fully for their sins. And really, a bigger problem was the disaffected young woman who watched the whole show while smoking her cigarette outside her front door.

So I didn't write anything, and tried to tell myself that I was setting a good example for my children, but really it was a sincere lack of creative thinking. And because I was so mad inside, the experience didn't do much to cultivate a Zen state, although to my credit I did not accelerate _very_ hard with on each forward rock.

Maybe there was a good reason that BBP's driver parked where s/he did. Like maybe her/his very favorite Aunty has double spleen/brain cancer and s/he is so wracked with grief that s/he now sees double, which made her/him THINK that there was a parking space where there wasn't, and also made it hard to gauge distances.



"No nest see Ben Papa home bed!" Because of the context, I assume he was saying: "Papa and Ben can't see the birds' nest because they (Papa and Ben, not the birds) are not on our walk, and are home in bed."

"No car come this way road."

"Big road run Jem!"

"Handy huggy." (These kind of huggies are for when we're walking, and Jem takes my hand and pushes it into his ear for some quick cuddles on the move.)

"Donk" = fall down/push over (all tenses)

"Bunta" = bellybutton

Jem was recently given two choices for how he could get his teeth brushed by his Papa. I unwittingly asked him, in exasperation: "Jem! How am I going to brush your teeth if you keep doing this [not opening his mouth and screaming]!?" He answered plaintively, "Hard way!"

"Popi" (pronounced pop-ee) = a term of endearment for Jeff that is usually possessive, like "Popi pants!" "Popi food!" "Popi shoes!"


My morning walks lately have been brisk (the weather), early (that would be Jem), and both tiring and rejuvenating at the same time. Sometimes Jem walks for a mile or two by himself.

He trots along with 2-3 steps for each of mine, and I love watching him go. I get a warm fuzzy feeling like I used to when he and Ben were infants, and were traveling on my chest in the baby carrier. It's that feeling of knowing that their doings are so easy and natural, so much fun for both mama and baby, such a picture of increasing self-reliance.

The other morning he was so speedy I had to trot to keep up. It was cold and dark and blustery. "Big windy!" Jem noted. And then, "Run big windy Jem Mama!"

He grabbed my hand, and the October wind blew fiercely, and we raced at a real run down Helen's Way, laughing and laughing. At that moment, we were a super warm running team in the cold, gray world.


Jeff is a stoic, non-complaining, steady type, but his health challenges have been trying lately. He's gotten the results of his biopsies back, and with that an official diagnosis (for his food-sticking-in-the-chest malady) of "Eosinophilic Esophagitis." This doesn't exactly lead one to a plethora of treatment options, and the balloon-to-expand-his-esophagus mini-surgery seems like it may be a very temporary fix. Beyond that, doctors are prescribing asthma medication/steroids taken orally as a temporary palliative measure.

"EE", as far as I understand it, is something like asthma of the esophagus. And it also seems very much triggered by food allergy (but in very hard-to-correlate ways) because 98% of patients in some studies improve markedly after starting an elemental protein formula diet. This elemental diet consists of a foul blend of pre-digested amino acids. And nothing else. The only problem with it, besides its expense (and potential lack of important micro-nutrients), is that it tastes so bad that people don't stay on the diet.

So Jeff has embarked on a Six Food Elimination Diet that is designed to eliminate the most common EE allergens, and which leaves him with a limited repertoire of snacking options. He gets a special award for making it through Halloween with only a couple of (permitted on the SFED) lollipops and a fruit leather.

I really hope this makes him feel better!


Okay, despite the clocks changing, it's already late in the afternoon. All those people who say, "Yay! We got an extra hour of sleep today!" pretty much definitely don't have small children.

So I'm tired...

Love, and Happy Halloween!!

P.S. Send good thought to Mom and Prattsburgh politics on Tuesday, when "her" election comes to the vote.

P.P.S. I'm in the middle of reading a disturbing, weird article about hospital personnel accused of euthanizing patients during the chaos of evacuation during the storm... Am not sure what to think.

P.P.S How could I forget the week's most important news of all: the chickens have started laying!!! :) This is very exciting (or, as Graham says, "eggciting! And eggstemporaneous. And eggcellent.") Not only because they are eating about $25 worth of organic feed per week... We've started saving table and vegetable scraps for them.

Now, you can rest assured that you've been completely updated on our week.