Welcome, November.

I miss November’s chill that warns of coming months.  I miss the monochrome palette of greys showcasing the cycle of life.  I miss watching geese fly south.  And I miss barren trees allowing us to peer past their branches.  Memories of my youth are brought to life by Robert Frost’s words.

My November Guest

Robert Frost

My Sorrow, when she’s here with me,
Thinks these dark days of autumn rain
Are beautiful as days can be;
She loves the bare, the withered tree;
She walks the sodden pasture lane.

Her pleasure will not let me stay.
She talks and I am fain to list:
She’s glad the birds are gone away,
She’s glad her simple worsted grey
Is silver now with clinging mist.

The desolate, deserted trees,
The faded earth, the heavy sky,
The beauties she so truly sees,
She thinks I have no eye for these,
And vexes me for reason why.

Not yesterday I learned to know
The love of bare November days
Before the coming of the snow,
But it were vain to tell her so,
And they are better for her praise.

Halloween By the Numbers

Base trick-or-treating hours were from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

We purchased approximately 270 pieces of candy.

At the end of the two-hour window, we had received more than 130 trick-or-treaters.

We gave two pieces of candy to each costumed (and quasi-costumed) beggar.

Three children 3 years old and younger graced our doorstep; two of whom rode on their father’s shoulders.

[S] wore her pumpkin outfit for 22 minutes before demanding it be taken off.  Regardless of being costume-free, she ran to the door each time the bell rang.

Russell used his light sabre, creaking door, screaming ghoul, evil laugh and alien sound effects too many times to count.

We played more Halloween themed music than I knew existed.

We received compliments on our door from adults and children alike; the most meaningful were those from pre-teen boys calling it “cool.”

Nine children, including [S], were mesmerized, befuddled or confused by the color changing light stuck to the bottom of the candy bowl, making the bowl and candy glow.

The doorbell rang once after 8 p.m., despite it being after hours and our door being dark.  We didn’t answer.

Lastly, I have to give a shout out to the parents of the children who visited us.  By far, as a group, they were the most polite children I’ve encountered on Halloween.  Ever.

It’s a Happy Halloween After All

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Friday.  Yesterday.  The day that seemed to last forever.  Friday, the three of us went to the hospital.  [S] received her flu and varicella (chickenpox) vaccinations; I received my flu shot.  Later that day, as I sat holding a sleeping [S], I thought we should do something to acknowledge Halloween.  Neighbors had told us that people sit outside and pass out candy, alleviating the need to decorate anything. But other neighbors told us that many people do not sit outside.  The rumblings of possible rain, the presence of an active 18-month old, and the fact we still have shrews running around our yard at night, made our decision easy.

As I sat rocking [S], my mind ran through what we had on hand to decorate our home.  Everyone has something on hand, I thought to myself.  And then it hit me.  And it took off from there.  The cost?  Nearly nothing.  The tools?  Three sheets of construction paper, scissors, black markers, cardboard and an artistic partner.  (I get bragging rights for the face on the large pumpkin, but my Husband drew the tree and the letters.)  The large brown paper was packing paper received in an Amazon box kept for crafts, bat and pumpkin templates were found online, the cardboard was salvaged from our recycle bin, and a bit of aluminum foil made the moon glimmer.

It only took a few hours to complete the entire project.  And I’m pleased with the outcome.

Enjoy a peek behind the scene.

No Matter How You Look At It: Ben Fields’ Actions Were Inexcusable

Anyone who has watched the video footage of Ben Fields assaulting a high school student in South Carolina knows that his actions were inappropriate under the circumstances–wholly disproportionate to the what the student’s action (and inaction) required and, accordingly, completely unacceptable.  Indeed, the student remained in her chair during the attack, never a physical threat to Mr. Fields, her teacher or other students.  The facts known to date indicate that the student’s conduct was inappropriate.  She was disrespectful, violated school rules, and failed to follow her teacher’s instructions.  In other words, the student was wrong.  Period.

So what is a school to do?  The answer is not as simple as it seems.  Detention, letters home, write-ups, etc., oftentimes are ineffective and a waste of time for all involved.  Discipline in the form of suspension is welcomed by some students and expected by some families.  And expulsion fails to educate a child, the antithesis of the goal of public education.

As schools throughout our country wrestle with balancing the need to create and maintain effective learning environments with ensuring the safety and well-being of staff, teachers, administrators and students, one thing is clear:  fear, intimidation, and physical assault is not the answer.  Schools are supposed to be a safe place.  A safe place to discuss ideas, to explore, to inquire, to grow.  Since children have existed, discipline has been an issue–school or no school–just ask any parent.

Our schools are not a place for either law enforcement or guns.  We are a progressive nation.  There are plenty of ways in which this situation could have been avoided.  Children could be required to surrender their phones to a phone tree before class begins.  In this case, were there no phone there would be no Mr. Fields.

Rest assured the safety and adequacy of public education weighs heavily on my mind.  Bullying, violence, sex, mass shootings, and eating disorders are only a few issues that keep me up at night.  There is no need to add to my list.  Keep the guns–and the hired guns–out of school.  Let our children be children.  And let the schools determine how to handle such a situation.

Now, any child in that classroom, as well as anyone who has watched the video, has a reason–a very good reason–not to trust law enforcement officers.  At least the sheriff’s office got it right, “Ben Fields did wrong . . . ”

* * *

A white sheriff’s deputy in South Carolina was fired Wednesday after county officials concluded he had acted improperly when, in a videotaped confrontation, he dragged and then threw a female African-American student across a high school classroom this week.

The deputy, Ben Fields, was dismissed two days after the episode at Spring Valley High School, where students recorded an encounter that spread quickly across social media and became a vivid reminder of concerns about the treatment of black people by law enforcement officers.

“He picked a student up, and he threw the student across the room; that is not a proper technique,” Sheriff Leon Lott of Richland County said at a news conference in Columbia, where he told reporters, “Deputy Ben Fields did wrong this past Monday, so we’re taking responsibility for that.”

Ben Fields, South Carolina Deputy, Fired Over Student Arrest, The New York Times (Oct. 28, 2015)

The Third Republican Presidential Candidate Debate: Meh.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina, you’ve lost this round.

The odds-makers may have gotten it right this time.  Senator Marco Rubio was articulate, civil, thoughtful, and, yes, presidential.

#WaitingForRubioBounce

#ItIsCalledEgoGovHuckabee

#FixBankruptcyLaws

#NarrowTheFieldGOP

We’ve Been Booed. Yes, Really.

My feelings about Halloween are known.  Regardless of how I feel about the holiday, I am all about surprises (the good kind) and sweet treats.  (Yes, I inherited both my Father’s sweet tooth and his love of candy corn.)  Imagine my delight–and surprise–yesterday morning when [S] and I spied a large Halloween bag sitting on our doorstep upon returning from our morning walk.

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Bag of treats.

It had to be filled with candy, I thought to myself.  Secondary to thoughts of chocolate, I wondered who had left the bag.  While social with our neighbors, we have not yet become particularly close with anyone.

Once inside I peered into the bag.  There was a fistful of black crinkle cut paper, a few small Tootsie rolls, a number of Dum Dums, two boxes of Nerds, and a small pumpkin snow globe.  Thankfully, there was no need to hide my disappointment.  As I continued staring at the bag, contemplating why someone would use such a large bag for such a small gift, I saw them.  At the bottom of the bag sat two pieces of paper folded into squares.  I opened them slowly and with loathing.

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Yes.  TheSuburbanMom.com.  No, we were not the recipients of a kind holiday gesture.  Rather, we had just been tagged in the suburban neighborhood version of a Halloween chain letter–pass it on.

As anyone who knows me can attest, I am nothing if not a team player.  I taped the accompanying sign on our door.  And later that day I took [S] shopping for treats for two other families.

IMG_2170When Russell arrived home, I told him his mission.  Deliver a treat bag to the house across the street to our right.  The gift bag was age appropriate for their two young children (think stickers, glow-in-the-dark-skeletons, candy, etc.).  “What about the second bag?,” he asked.  I hadn’t put the second bag together yet.  “Do you think we could just re-gift the bag we received?,” I asked in earnest.  He stared at me.  “No,” he said firmly.

After the second bag had been completed, I told him to check the the first house on our street.  They, too, have young children.  Russell left and was gone for far too long.  After 25 minutes, he returned out of breath.  “Where have you been?,” I asked.  “First, I did reconnaissance around our neighborhood to see which houses didn’t already have a Boo sign posted.  And then I went to the house across the street, rang the doorbell and ran.  They opened the door sooner than I thought they would.  Now, the little boy is on high alert.  I closed the car door and he opened his front door and looked down on the street.  I think he saw my head.”  After I finished laughing, I asked if he had delivered the second bag.  “Yes,” he replied.  “I had to park the car on the other end of the street so they wouldn’t see it.”  “Did they see you?,” I asked.  “I don’t know, I was too busy running away.”  I laughed so hard I cried.

Regardless of the tricks and treats of this October, it is shaping up to be the most amusing Halloween yet.

For the Love of Sand

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We were both worried.  We were quite concerned, truth be told.  Russell and I had taken [S] to the beach and the pool several times, but each time she touched the sand or came near the water she cried and screamed as if she were being tortured.  This was distressing given her parents’ innate love of the water, be it swimming, splashing, playing or just soaking.  But our daughter made it clear that any body of water, excepting her tepid bath water, was off limits and out of bounds.

Yesterday, Russell called an audible.  (This is a football reference.  It means that he went off script and called his own play.  I think I’ve just mixed metaphors.  For those of you wondering, no, I had no idea what calling an audible meant before yesterday.)  He looked at me mid-morning and said, “We’re going to the beach.  You need that.”  He mowed the lawn.  I did laundry.  [S] took a nap.  And then we packed up and headed to Torii Station.

Thanks to the [S]-sized beach shoes given to us by our former neighbors, [S] tolerated walking on the beach without fussing for the first time ever.  As we neared the Sea, [S] began making high-pitched chirping noises, expressing her discomfort.  But we continued walking as her father waded into the water.  Before she knew it, she was wading in the water also.

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Next to the fact that she went into the water willingly, the biggest surprise was that she enjoyed being in the water.  After her dip, she spent the rest of the afternoon playing in the sand, with her bucket and pink shovel.

It was a fantastic day.

Well done, Husband.  Well done.