Tag Archives: Halloween

All Hallows Eve…The End is Near

DSCN0432I’ve been informed it’s over—my brood’s love affair with trick-or-treating, that is. I knew it would happen eventually. I just wasn’t expecting it to happen now, seemingly minutes before Halloween. It’s possible I’ll need weeks of therapy in order to cope with such tragic news. Please send candy.

I guess I was kidding myself to think my kids’ enthusiasm for harvesting gobs of chocolate and fistfuls of candy corn would last forever. And I probably missed some important signs last October when my progeniesIMG_6676 disguised themselves to the nth degree (one wore a disturbingly realistic horsehead mask while the other donned a ginormous set of bat wings), but then sort of dragged their feet when it came to traipsing all over the neighborhood, treat bags in hand. At the time, I simply pushed it out of my mind. Denial, as it were.

As the stages of grief are classically defined, I suppose I haven’t progressed much since then. I still reject the idea that the fun is over, defending the fact that “…even adults like to dress up in ridiculous outfits and solicit candy. Who wouldn’t?”

Almost immediately, I learned how incredibly stupid that question was. In no uncertain terms, I was enlightened as to how “completely done with that” they were.

“We just want to stay home, answer the door and scare little kids to death.”

Egads. I wasn’t prepared for that sort of response. I guess I just want to hold on to the past, or maybe even live it a little longer if possible. I liked it when my twin daughters were just babies—most of the time anyway. They were pumpkins their first Halloween, kittens their second, and burly lumberjacks their third year I think. I remember dotting their cheeks with dark eyeliner, giving their faces the suggestion of stubble. I also fondly recall piling warm layers of clothing beneath red and black-checkered jackets to complete the look.

For the first several years, my husband and I lugged them around the neighborhood in their red Radio Flyer wagon, using blankets and coats to prop them up and cushion the bumpy ride. Hats and mittens were a must, cleverly incorporated into the ensemble. At each house we visited, friends would crowd around the door to see how adorable our children looked, each year’s costume topping the last.IMG_9862

As they grew older they were able to walk with us, tightly gripping one of our hands while clutching their coveted treat bag with the other. Each year we journeyed further and further away from home, eventually canvassing the entire neighborhood in one night—which was no small feat.

More recently, they’ve met up with their friends on All Hallows Eve, eager to wander the streets of our close-knit community, a smallish herd of mask-toting teens and tweens in the dark of night, some carrying flashlights, some entirely too cool to carry a flashlight, their raucous laughter filling the autumn air. By evening’s end, they would return home, sweaty and utterly spent, usually hauling all or part of their costumes—either because they were too hot or they broke somewhere along the way. Treat bags bursting with candy. Smiles all around.

But this year will be different. No more ambling from house to house. No more bags of loot to dump on the kitchen floor to better sort and ogle. No more little red wagon or mittens. At least my kids have assured me there will still be the wearing of costumes, however. So there’s that. I guess I’ll just have to accept reality and embrace a new and different Halloween tradition—as scary as that might be.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live lamenting the end of All Hallows Eve (sort of). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2015 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "N" is for Nostalgia, Growing Pains, The Natives are Decidedly Restless

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

www.melindawentzel.comI’ve often thought that the art of raising children is a lot like carving a pumpkin. In both instances, I brought home a rotund little bundle of neediness, fumbling and stumbling over myself just to get it out of the car and safely inside. I then set it down, took a step back and stared—marveling at its inherent uniqueness and at its wealth of complexities, most of which I had yet to discover. A “Now what?” comment fell from my lips shortly thereafter as I contemplated my next move. Anxiously I paced the floor, studying this newish thing from every angle imaginable—careful not to overlook so much as a dimple or a distinctive feature upon its ruddy face. I then wrestled endlessly with self-doubt and indecision, fully and completely acknowledging the challenges that lay ahead.

At once, I also considered the endless potential this wonder of wonders possessed, pondering the remarkable role I would undoubtedly play in the days to come. I prayed for insight and wisdom, and for the ability to make its spirit glow and its face shine brighter than bright. I loved and nurtured it unconditionally, shaped and molded it tenderly yet purposefully, pouring forth every single ounce of knowledge, creativity and patience I could muster, in hopes that one day my little pumpkin would stand on my doorstep straight and tall, illuminating my world forevermore. A beacon in the night for all who would pass.

But no one ever told me there would be muck in the middle—a slippery, slimy mass of gloppage with which I have had to contend, time and again, in order to move forward. My hands don’t lie. They’ve been mired deep within this monstrous task for an eternity. And it shows. I am worn and weary, doused with sticky remnants of the chore. There have been a multitude of tricky corners to navigate with precision and grace, and unforeseen lumps and bumps to address along this winding path of growth and development. Countless hours have been spent scooping out and whittling away that which is undesirable and stubbornly rooted—the gunk which would surely detract from inner beauty.

Desperately, I have sought the counsel of others. I’ve searched long and hard for guidance—for some sort of pattern to follow so that I could avoid a minefield of mistakes and make the right impression in the end. Heaven forbid I mismanage so much as a solitary stroke of my efforts.

What I find both completely frustrating and strangely wonderful about the whole process, however, is that despite the planning and the commitment and the intensity with which I have approached it all, the end result is virtually unknown until I lay down my tools, step back from my work and light the flame within. Only then will I learn how well I’ve done my job—when my pumpkinish creation stands before me, glowing on its own amidst a sea of ink. Mere glimpses of what will be are all I have been afforded along the way. But glimpses, nonetheless.

Happy Halloween to all those makers of little jack-o’-lanterns, whose work is truly a labor of love and whose efforts are worthy of high praise—regardless of the outcome.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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The Unsung Heroes of Halloween

Halloween is fast approaching, an event that thrills me beyond all compare. Always has. Maybe it’s the candy corn spilling from caldron-like bowls and the tiny bat-shaped pretzels that woo me each October, though I find the former sickeningly sweet and the latter far too endearing to consume. Perhaps it’s the ubiquitous nature of pumpkins, the deranged sort of joy I derive from carving them or my curious obsession with corn mazes that makes the holiday so completely wonderful. Or maybe it’s simply because it qualifies as one of the few times I win popularity with my brood—by, of course, encouraging them to play with knives and to saturate every molecule of their being with pumpkin gloppage in so doing.

At any rate, I greatly enjoy Halloween, especially its huddled masses of trick-or-treaters come nightfall, the ones who traipse around my neighborhood in packs wearing a hodgepodge of disguises, embracing all that is truly terrifying, indescribably bizarre or exceedingly hilarious. And the dogs. Oh, how I adore the dressed-up dogs and the whole let’s-turn-our-Chihuahua-into-a-tiny-pirate craze. Never mind how inherently disturbing that may be. But I digress. It’s the innovative costumes that truly wow me—the works of pure genius cobbled together with found objects, discarded cardboard and gobs upon gobs of creativity. Duct tape, too, on occasion.

Case in point: The large and decidedly hideous “pile of poo” I once witnessed at a Halloween party (i.e. a mocha-hued shell of dung-inspired horror, expertly fashioned from an abundance of papier mâché and delicately infused with real kernels of corn, worn by a man who appeared to be surrounded by a cluster of flies that seemingly hung in the air and followed him as he moved from place to place). I kid you not. It was priceless and I cannot begin to imagine how much time and effort it had taken to create such a masterpiece. To top it off, the aforementioned gentleman was flanked by his toddler, aka “Little Shit,” who was similarly outfitted and equally comical. If nothing else, it was memorable and demonstrated, yet again, the ingenuity that Halloween can, indeed, inspire.

Likewise, I cannot erase from my mind the “human microwave” I encountered some time ago—a two-legged, cardboard-esque creature with a cleverly concealed treat bowl buried deep within its cavernous “belly,” one that was situated behind a makeshift door that conveniently opened and closed for easy access.  It was a positively ingenious contrivance, and the brainchild of a boy who would go on to study engineering. I certainly hope he includes achievements such as this (read: thinking outside the box) on his résumé in the future (even though, technically speaking, he was inside a box). I know I would.

That said, I’ll be equally entertained by a comparable level of brilliance this year when and if someone crafts (and actually wears!) a giant 3-ring binder—of Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” fame, a topic that trended on Twitter for quite some time following the second presidential debate. More specifically, I’ve pictured a crop of mannequin-like legs wearing fishnet stockings and stilettos, spilling from an oversized loose-leaf binder, reminiscent of the candidate’s recent gaffe. I can only hope to stumble upon such foolishness on Halloween—with camera in hand.

It’s likely I’ll be snapping pictures of my kids that night as well—to celebrate the fact that they will have finally settled upon costumes. Oh. My. Hell. To say that our recent excursion to a certain Halloween-themed establishment was a grueling affair cannot be overstated. Nor can its interminable nature. In sum, after combing the aisles for schlock we apparently had to have, we spent roughly three days ogling rubber masks. Of course, we tried on 4,387 of them. Then there was the matter of finding a mirror, so that said masks could be admired and subsequently placed in the KEEP, DITCH or MAYBE pile. In so doing, we effectively blocked the path of multitudes of patrons (i.e. perfectly normal people who weren’t incapacitated by the urge to try on every cussed mask).

Likewise, each and every wig, helmet and/or machete-like device (including the one that sounded like the stabbing scene from Psycho), had to be thoroughly examined and evaluated. Joy.

If only I could interest my charges in actually making a costume from the mountains of schlock we currently own, harvesting untold volumes from our garage and closets, I’d be getting somewhere. Oh well. Even still, I love Halloween.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (looking forward to stumbling into trick-or-treaters who think outside the box). Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2012 Melinda L. Wentzel

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It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

www.melindawentzel.comI’ve often thought that the art of raising children is a lot like carving a pumpkin. In both instances, I brought home a rotund little bundle of neediness, fumbling and stumbling over myself just to get it out of the car and safely inside. I then set it down, took a step back and stared—marveling at its inherent uniqueness and at its wealth of complexities, most of which I had yet to discover. A “Now what?” comment fell from my lips shortly thereafter as I contemplated my next move. Anxiously I paced the floor, studying this newish thing from every angle imaginable—careful not to overlook so much as a dimple or a distinctive feature upon its ruddy face. I then wrestled endlessly with self-doubt and indecision, fully and completely acknowledging the challenges that lay ahead.

At once, I also considered the endless potential this wonder of wonders possessed, pondering the remarkable role I would undoubtedly play in the days to come. I prayed for insight and wisdom, and for the ability to make its spirit glow and its face shine brighter than bright. I loved and nurtured it unconditionally, shaped and molded it tenderly yet purposefully, pouring forth every single ounce of knowledge, creativity and patience I could muster, in hopes that one day my little pumpkin would stand on my doorstep straight and tall, illuminating my world forevermore. A beacon in the night for all who would pass.

But no one ever told me there would be muck in the middle—a slippery, slimy mass of gloppage with which I have had to contend, time and again, in order to move forward. My hands don’t lie. They’ve been mired deep within this monstrous task for an eternity. And it shows. I am worn and weary, doused with sticky remnants of the chore. There have been a multitude of tricky corners to navigate with precision and grace, and unforeseen lumps and bumps to address along this winding path of growth and development. Countless hours have been spent scooping out and whittling away that which is undesirable and stubbornly rooted—the gunk which would surely detract from inner beauty.

Desperately, I have sought the counsel of others. I’ve searched long and hard for guidance—for some sort of pattern to follow so that I could avoid a minefield of mistakes and make the right impression in the end. Heaven forbid I mismanage so much as a solitary stroke of my efforts.

What I find both completely frustrating and strangely wonderful about the whole process, however, is that despite the planning and the commitment and the intensity with which I have approached it all, the end result is virtually unknown until I lay down my tools, step back from my work and light the flame within. Only then will I learn how well I’ve done my job—when my pumpkinish creation stands before me, glowing on its own amidst a sea of ink. Mere glimpses of what will be are all I have been afforded along the way. But glimpses, nonetheless.

Happy Halloween to all those makers of little jack-o’-lanterns, whose work is truly a labor of love and whose efforts are worthy of high praise—regardless of the outcome.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live. Visit me there at www.facebook.com/NotesfromPlanetMom.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under In the Trenches of Parentville, Love and Other Drugs, Mushy Stuff

Nightmare on Mom Street

Sunday afternoons are my respite in this harried place. The sanity cocktail from which I draw sweet sustenance. That said, I lounge around the house doing as little as humanly possible, embracing my inner sloth. Old movies, blanket forts and naps rule the day. That is not to say that I haven’t, on occasion, become inspired enough to throw something meaty in the crock-pot, to haul my sweeper from the bowels of its dusky lair or to plant my sorry self in the laundry room for a time despite my aversion to the insufferable place. Even on a Sunday afternoon. But for the most part, ambition is nowhere to be found in my house during that glorious wedge of downtime—sandwiched deliciously between the madness that was and the madness sure to come. Last Sunday, however, was decidedly different. Havoc rained down on my world, obliterating my precious corner of calm.

Oddly enough, what led to the aforementioned began weeks ago while traipsing through a store, my cart piled high with a bunch of schlock I didn’t need. At every turn, it seemed, I stumbled into EVEN MORE SCHLOCK and felt compelled to ogle it, to finger its veneer of worthiness and to toy with the notion of adding it to my ever-growing mound of that-which-I-would-one-day-regret-purchasing. And on the days during which I allow the guilt of motherhood to consume me, the mound is markedly higher. Needless to say, it was one of those days.

Indeed, the voices that drive much of my irrational behavior relevant to Thing One and Thing Two were especially persuasive that day, whispering words of admonishment in my ear and regaling in my grand ineptitude as a parent: “You’re a HORRIBLE MOTHER…you don’t SPEND ENOUGH TIME with your children…you MUST ACQUIRE this ten-dollar nugget of wonderfulness which promises to erase weeks of botched parenting.” All the while I considered said nugget of wonderfulness (i.e. a two-pound Chocolate Cookie Halloween House Kit, complete with 47 bats, dozens of little green candies I would later damn to hell, enough gumdrops to coat eleventy-seven teeth and an expander, a defective ghost—or rather, segments of insanely sweet candy, suggestive of something that was once intact and specter-like—and a cauldron full of powdery mixes that were sure to deliver hours of goo-inspired, edible fun and to yield the most perfect hues of orange and purple icing on the planet).

In the end, I was shamed into buying the box of foolishness. Because that’s what moms do. Just like all the other project-y stuff I haul home out of sheer guilt; never mind the games and books and techno-gadgetry thought to engender this or that brand of awe in my children. It’s all about the Is-it-as-remarkable-as-a-pony factor and Will-it-expunge-from-the-record-my-screw-ups-to-date?

So I shoved the stupid thing in our pantry (good intentions and all) and forgot about it till the Halloween craze struck with a vengeance. And since the celebrated costume drama in this household was officially over, a sinful quantity of sugary treats had been stockpiled already and virtually every corner of our home had been festooned with all-that-is-Halloweenish, there was but one thing left to do—build the stupid house. So that’s what we did—the three of us, while Dad cheered exuberantly from the sidelines.

Several hours, two meltdowns (both mine) and a hellacious mess later, we had our two-pound Chocolate Cookie Halloween House. Of course, the orange and purple mixes wound up adorning everything kitchen-ish but the inside of the refrigerator, those reprehensible, little candies rolled near and far much to my chagrin, fistfuls of trimmings were consumed with wild abandon and the icing was less than compliant as I shoveled and smeared gobs of it into pastry bags and then squeezed the reluctant mass onto the house as instructed. Translation: The cussed gloppage in question delighted in its schmutziness and its droopiness, defiantly sliding down walls, windows and slanted rooftops, leaving hideous-looking blobs everywhere. Even the spider webs I made sagged to the point of looking not-so-spider-webby. But because the gods of kitchen fiascos were smiling upon me, my brood took it all in stride, “…the droopiness makes it even SPOOKIER, Mom! You’re so AWESOME!”

Well, it certainly wasn’t as grand as a pony might have been; but the awe factor of this nightmarish project was evident to at least two somebodies on the planet. And perhaps that’s all that matters in the end.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (admiring our droopified Halloween house).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, Daily Chaos, Holiday Hokum, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

And the Monster That is Mommy Reared her Ugly Head, Just in Time for Halloween

Seems like only yesterday when my charges were perfectly content to wear costumes that reeked of adorableness. Alas, that was eons ago…

If my kids were truly cognizant of the hideous nature of my most recent crime, they’d surely sell me on eBay. “One ROTTEN MOMMY for sale!” the blurb would read. “One ROTTEN MOMMY who did a BAD, BAD thing!” And I wouldn’t blame them one bit. Indeed, I have done something horrible. Something atrocious. Something downright wicked—even by my standards.

I picked out this year’s Halloween costumes (Gasp!) without so much as my children’s input, say-so or collective blessing. Yep. I did. And I am deeply ashamed of my deplorable conduct. As I should be. Needless to say, it pains me greatly even to admit to something so heinous—much like the time I rearranged the ABC magnets on the refrigerator door without first consulting the powers that be. Naturally, there was hell to pay for that little transgression.

Remarkably however, this time my charges weren’t nearly as outraged or distraught over my rash and brazen behavior. The fact that I made an executive decision in their absence barely made a blip on the radar screen amazingly enough. In large part, I attribute this stroke of good fortune to two things: Number 1: I can be exceedingly clever (read: conniving) on occasion. Number 2: My kids are exceedingly distractible (read: gullible), on most occasions.

“Honeys, look at what Mommy brought you! A ladybug with wings and spots and boingy little antenna things…a silly-looking monkey with a banana in his pocket and a squinky little tail…and a chicken suit! Yes, yes, a funny chicken suit with fluffy featherish stuff and big, floppy feet!! I know, I know, we only need two costumes for Halloween, but Mommy couldn’t resist GIVING YOU DEAR, DEAR CHILDREN A CHOICE!”

See. That’s where the cleverness sidled in. I totally and completely diverted their attention with all the bells and whistles I employed, spewing forth (in one giant breath) each and every wonderful feature of those ridiculous costumes I could think of, precluding so much as a hint of protest. Then I threw them the infamous you’ve-got-a-choice bone for good measure. Insert fiendish laugh here.

In all honesty though, I never ever meant to steal their joy or to crush their delicate spirits (and thankfully, I didn’t). Truthfully, I have no clue as to what made me do the unthinkable. I never intended to buy those silly suits; they just sort of fell off the rack and into my cart as my inner mommy voice soothingly cooed, “Hey, smart shopper, think of the time and trouble you’ll save—I mean, everyone will save—if you just pick out a couple of costumes right now, while you’re here, free from the endless swirl of chaos and the din of despair. Your kids won’t mind. Come on, you know you want to. They’ll love you for it and besides, if you let them choose… a) it will take for-EVER (because there are zebras and mice and kangaroos and a veritable ark load of choices!), b) you will be driven insane in the process as they weave deliriously in and out of the racks aplenty, drunk with joy over the momentous event and c) they’ll whine and carry on until you let them have those stupid pink poodle outfits. Do you honestly want your children to be seen wearing something so utterly HIDEOUS for Halloween?! Have you gone completely mad, woman?! They’ll look like a couple of ninnies!”

So I tossed the blasted things into my cart, unable to silence the voices in my head. Alas, I was weak. And the monster that is Mommy reared her ugly head, just in time for Halloween. Shame on me. Of course, I felt awful after the fact and I began questioning myself. I started thinking the poodles might not have been so bad (God knows they’re OBSESSED with dogs). The kangaroo (with a pouch for candy!) had potential, too. Egads! What had I done?!

Like I said, if they could only wrap their little minds around my egregious behavior, I’d be sold to the highest bidder. Or to pretty much any bidder for that matter. Let the flogging begin.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live.

Copyright 2007 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under "G" is for Guilt, Daily Chaos, Holiday Hokum, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction

It’s Almost Halloween, Do You Know Where Your Ghosts and Goblins Are?

The countdown to October 31st has officially begun, or so I’ve been informed by the ghoul-worshiping creatures with whom I reside. “Only TWENTY-SEVEN DAYS till Halloween, Mom! Isn’t that ENTIRELY KEWL?!” the crew reminds me again. And again.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Halloween, Schmalloween,” I grouse to no one, thinking of how consumed my brood will be with all-that-is-grisly-and-gruesome till the night of terror and celebrated harvest of sugary treats is finally over. Indeed, I’m troubled by the hype surrounding the event, nauseated by the deluge of candy corn spilling from checkout counters near and far and burdened unmercifully by the demands that have been placed upon me to produce two of the most obscenely wonderful costumes on the planet—“…because we HAVE to be the SCARIEST, Mom. It’s a RULE. No more baby stuff. We want to make people screeeeeeam! Can you make us some costumes, Mom?!”

“MAKE you some COSTUMES?!” I muttered to myself through clenched teeth. “Surely you jest, my dear, sweet children,” I chortled while marking the calendar with big, fat letters, “BUY COSTUMES,” all the while fighting the urge to add, “BLOW THE ENTIRE DAY IN PURSUIT OF THE PERFECT HALLOWEEN APPAREL.”

Oh, the PRESSURE! Oh, the HORROR! Oh, the GUILT associated with parenting smallish beings! That’s code for: I have serious issues with time management, I like crafts but I’m not especially crafty, and I can’t sew to save myself. I much preferred the chapters in life during which my charges were oblivious to my non-Susie Homemaker allegiance. Or when they were perfectly content to be disguised as plump-ish pumpkins or whiskered kittens (read: sinfully adorable garment-age conveniently plucked from store shelves or received as gifts). My husband and I then bundled them up and wheeled them around the neighborhood in a big, red wagon—pausing only to wipe noses, to sample the loot and to shift their lumpy bodies around like sacks of potatoes. Life was so much simpler then. Complexity now rules the land. There are voices to be heard, desires to satisfy and wallets to purge.

That said, a week ago Sunday all three of those matters were sufficiently addressed as it relates to the aforementioned holiday. Three stores, two giddified children and a ridiculous chunk of time later, we had spooktacular Halloween outfits. And all was right with the world—except the process itself was unbearably tedious if not downright maddening. There were rubbery rats to pet, hideous-looking masks to ogle and 67 varieties of wigs to try on. True to my paranoid self, I obsessed, “I do not like LICE in my HOUSE! It makes me CRINGE, it makes me GROUSE! Please, oh please, don’t let there be, anything LICE-ISH there for me!”

Needless to say, nothing even remotely “lice-ish” awaited me in this Mecca of Halloween wares; however a sea of costumes, a barrage of creepy sounds and an infinite array of gotta-have-it-or-I’ll-die accessories beckoned to my brood, rendering them incapable of making a decision. Never mind that solid commitments had already been made. “But Mom, we have to look at EVERYTHING FIRST; and we have to try on capes and hats and horns and tails and….”

Again with the demands. Ugh.

My only saving grace: stumbling into a tree that insulted me. Well, it wasn’t a whole tree, actually. It was just a knot, gnarled and twisted into an unspeakably ugly face, hanging from some sort of bogus tree, poised to share its cantankerous self with those simple-minded enough to encourage such banter. I qualified. And because I find such oddities mildly intriguing, I could not walk away. So we talked. The tree and I. In the middle of Neece Paper. And I felt like a fool, yet completely compelled to continue.

In the end, that craggy hunk of Wizard of Oz-inspired surliness served as the perfect diversion for my pain and suffering (i.e. it kept me from going berserk while fulfilling my duties as the official Appraiser of Halloween Hokum).

May you be so fortunate this Halloween.

Planet Mom: It’s where I live (stockpiling candy corn, leafing through the pages of Crafty Mama in hopes I’ll glean something and contemplating the completely frivolous purchase of a trash-talking tree face).

Copyright 2009 Melinda L. Wentzel

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Filed under Holiday Hokum, Home is Where the Weirdness Lives, Kid-Speak, Rantings & Ravings, We Put the Fun in Dysfunction