Teens, You Can Trick-or-Treat at My House

Teen dressed up for HalloweenIt seems that every Halloween, the debate over “how old is too old to go trick-or-treating” resurfaces, and people start taking sides, engaging in online discussions about what will happen if we let middle school and high school students dress up and ask for candy on Beggar’s Nights.

This discussion has been fueled this year by the passing of a law in a small town in Canada banning kids over the age of 16 from trick-or-treating and instituting a 8 p.m. curfew for all trick-or-treaters. Those found in violation of this law could be fined $200. Now, this new law actually relaxed a previous law which banned kids over 14 from trick-or-treating and set the curfew at 7 p.m., but it still maintains the steep fine for those kids who don’t comply.

My response to this? Ridiculous.

Unbeknownst to the lawmakers in Bathurst, once you become a teenager, you do not automatically become a criminal, or even just a mischief-maker. The Bathurst city spokesman said that the “older residents” were concerned about “troublemakers.” How stereotypical is that, on both ends of the spectrum. Teenagers aren’t scary, or at least they shouldn’t be seen as so! These adolescents are trapped between wanting to stay a little kid and wanting to skip right to adult. It’s a tough road to navigate, if you don’t remember actually being a teenager yourself. It’s filled with confusion, doubt, friendships, heartache, anticipation and insecurity. But here’s the deal: When we make laws like this, we are sending the message that we don’t want them to still be able to act like kids once in a while. They should just go straight to being adults–but not the kind of adults who can be trusted not to smash pumpkins or take candy from babies.

Will older-looking 12-year-olds be forced to carry identification with them to prove that they are “of age” if stopped on the street by a cop or over-zealous resident looking for the chance to make a citizen’s arrest? Will kids’ trick-or-treating routines now include showing door answerers a birth certificate before reciting “Why didn’t the skeleton go trick-or-treating?” (Because he had no guts, if you were wondering.) Way to suck all the fun out of Halloween, Bathurst.

I work with teenagers, and I have three teenage boys of my own. Teenagers are not inherently bad. They are not going to automatically take a mile if you give them an inch. They aren’t all plotting how they can scare small children and terrorize adults. Most would not go egg a house even if you supplied the carton of eggs and a getaway driver. They care about people. They want people to care about them. They will amaze you in so many ways if you just give them the opportunity to show you who they really are, beneath that “scary black hoodie” or behind that SnapChat profile.

Now will some teenagers take advantage of opportunities, like trick-or-treating? Will some use it as a chance to grab two handfuls of candy instead of just taking one piece? Will some see Halloween as the excuse to use bad judgment and partake in some genuine “mischief”? Absolutely. But it’s no different with adults. Given the opportunity, will some adults take advantage of a situation or use terrible judgment when making decisions? You bet. Most teenagers will opt to either stay home and help hand out candy to little kids who come to their door, get together at a friend’s house to watch a scary movie on Netflix or maybe embrace that inner 8-year-old and dress up like a zombie or walk around the block in that unicorn onesie they got for their birthday.

And I know this may be a controversial statement, but I truly believe it: Teenagers will be who you show them they are. If you show them you think they are responsible kids, with mostly good intentions, the majority will rise to the occasion. But if you show them that they aren’t to be trusted and must be kept in line by force of law, many will do what they can to prove you right. It’s a generalization, I know, and there are definitely exceptions, but in my experience this has been the case. Do teenagers need boundaries? Definitely. They are still learning about the relationship between actions and consequences. They need guidance from those who have been where they are. But there’s a difference between setting boundaries and enforcing punishment based on things that are out of their control, like when they were born.

So, teens, if you’re listening, you can come trick-or-treat at my house. In fact, PLEASE come trick-or-treat at my house! At least I will know that you’re not out drinking somewhere or driving too fast on the way back from a haunted attraction an hour away. I would love to see what creative costume you come up with, or, even if you don’t want to go the costume route, you can still come knock on my door and ask for candy. I’ll gladly give it to you. It’s okay to be a kid once in a while, and Halloween gives you the perfect excuse to forget about all those stresses that come with being a teenager and just have fun.

And to the teens in Bathurst, I know it’s quite a drive, but if you’re in the neighborhood, you’re invited, too. And I promise, even if you ring my doorbell at 8:02, I won’t call the cops on you.

The Accidental Octogenarian

I’m officially 80 years old.

I must be. There’s no other explanation for what happened this week.

There I was, walking down the hall before school, like any other day, innocently heading to the teacher’s lounge to score me some of that gourmet Folgers or Yuban community coffee (whatever was on sale at Fareway this week) when I saw a co-worker who I thought looked especially nice. So I decided to pay her a compliment.

Here’s where things got weird.

I opened my mouth, and what I heard myself say was:

“I like your blouse!”

She accepted my compliment with a smile and I continued on my walk down the hall, but by now full-on confusion had set in.

Did I just use the word blouse?

I hit rewind in my mind and replayed the conversation. Yep, yep, there it was, sneaking into my vocabulary when it didn’t think I was paying attention. Which, apparently, I wasn’t.

Blouse? I literally cannot think of one time I have ever used the word blouse to describe someone’s shirt. Perhaps I have used the word top on occasion, when I’d been around my mom a little too long, but blouse?

This is what I picture when I hear the word blouse.

(Look at these sassy women, thinking they’re all that because they’re on the cover of a Vogue pattern unlike all those sorry Butterick or McCall’s pattern models.)

This is clearly not what type of shirt my coworker was wearing. There were no puffy sleeves or neck bow, and there definitely wasn’t a pleat in the front. So why in the world did this word escape from my subconscious?

Now I’m paranoid, afraid to open my mouth for fear that other 80-year-old-woman words will follow. Among my fears are the following phrases:

Your davenport is very comfortable!

Those slacks really flatter your figure.

These trousers are made from the finest polyester.

Could you go to the icebox and get me a bottle of milk?

Where might one purchase a new pocketbook around here?

Don’t be such a square.

Look at that young whippersnapper, fiddling with his mobile phone.

I’m going to ask Blanche if she will tape my stories for me since I will be visiting my grandchildren.

Now that my vocabulary has betrayed me, I’m afraid at what might be coming next. So if you see me trade in my iPhone for a “less complicated” flip phone (Sorry, Mom!) or staring a little too long at the rain bonnets at Walmart, or if I suddenly smell like Werther’s Originals and prune juice, you’ll know that the 80-year-old woman inside me has officially taken control.

Friends, you’d better start hiding your knee-high stockings and crocheted cat pillows…



photo by: Ethan Prater

The Stress of Going Back to School

So that’s it. Gone are the days of elementary school conferences and cookie dough fundraisers. I’m officially the mom of a middle school, a high school and a college student. Boy #3 turned 13 a few weeks ago, so I’m a full-fledged mom of teens — until January when I then graduate to “mom of a-20-year-old” status. (When in the heck did THIS happen, by the way?)

Back-to-school time is always crazy busy for our family. Having two teachers in the family means double-whammy beginning-of-the-year stress, and even though you’ll probably find this incredibly hard to believe, I don’t handle stress so well. This is evidenced by my “back-to-school acne” that has arrived, right on cue. Because nothing makes a 45-year-old woman feel better about herself than a mutinous bout of cystic acne.

And you know what has not helped my stress level this year? My newest teenager. I love the kid, but if I’m being honest (And when aren’t I?), he’s making me a little bit crazy right now. (And when I say “a little bit crazy,” what I really mean is “total batshit crazy.”) And we’ve only had five days of school.

Last year, he rode the bus to school and, being in 6th grade, was able to get himself out the door and to the bus stop on his own so I could head to school early, about 7 a.m., to get some things done before the halls filled up with Axe Body Spray and teenage angst. This year, however, he is riding to school with me, which means that even though I get up at the same time and am ready to head out the door at the same time, I am a full 20-30 minutes later getting to school.

Why is this, you may ask? Is it because Boy #3 and I are bonding over a home-cooked breakfast before we start our day? That’s a big “nope.” I’m not that good of a mom. It’s because no matter how much I prod and push, he cannot seem to run in any gear but slower-than-molasses, or sometimes even reverse. It LITERALLY takes him 10 minutes to put on his socks and shoes. And that’s when he can even find both of his shoes. He also never manages to remember to tell me anything that needs to be done until I have one foot out the door. Let’s take this morning for example. I had loaded myself up with my computer bag, purse and lunch and was walking past the kitchen table when I spotted his football mouthguard — still in the plastic bag. “Do you need this?” I asked naively, to which he spewed in panic, “I HAVE TO HAVE THIS MOLDED FOR MY TEETH THIS AFTERNOON OR I CAN’T PRACTICE!” Now, if you haven’t had the pleasure of helping a child, or a stranger for that matter, mold a mouthguard, please realize that in order to do this, you have to put it in boiling water. And the saying “A watched pot never boils” could NOT be more true. I had to put down my bags, put water in a pot on the stove and wait for it to boil before going to school. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Great life lesson here! He forgot to do it, so he doesn’t get to practice. Natural consequences, baby!” And don’t get me wrong, you’re absolutely right, but here’s the deal: Sometimes I’m just too tired to be a good mom and stand my ground, and unfortunately this morning was one of those sometimes.

But clearly, I’m going to have to nip this irresponsibility in the bud. For heaven’s sake, by last Friday night we had had three days of school, two of which were early outs, and he had already lost his bag and cleats TWICE. On the first day of school, he apparently left it outside on the front lawn of the school before the doors opened in the morning. Luckily, someone turned it in to the office and he got it the next day, so we didn’t have to buy him new shoes and he learned a lesson about holding on to his stuff. Bet he won’t do that again, right? Wrong. After the football game Friday night, another middle school teacher found his backpack, with his cleats inside, under the bleachers. Fortunately, the teacher had seen my son with the bag, so he knew whose it was because we hadn’t actually gotten around to ever putting his name on it anywhere. That would make too much sense.

So for those of you who are keeping track, he lost his bag and cleats twice so far, and this morning he forgot to boil his mouthguard until we were walking out the door. However, that wasn’t all the day had in store… Late morning I received an email from his band teacher saying that she had found his red folder he had lost, and of course she found it shoved way back in someone else’s cubby, which he had mistakenly used. Who’d a guessed that? But the fun didn’t stop there. Oh no. At the end of the school day, he informed me that he’d forgotten his football pants at home and that he needed them for practice an hour later. At this point, my backbone had grown back, and I told him he would have to walk home to get his pants because I had meetings I couldn’t miss. He replied that he wouldn’t be able to get home and back in time, to which I replied that it’s only one mile away, and that he could get there in 10 minutes. Obviously, I forgot how slowly my son does everything, along with the fact that I could barely do a 10-minute-mile when I was training for a half-marathon. Lucky for him my husband had gotten home from work by the time Boy #3 got there and was able to bring him back to the school. Instead of the 10 minutes that I projected, it actually took him 25 minutes to walk there. Whoops! “Bet you won’t forget your pants again!” I said when he tried to get mad at ME for the whole situation.

This picture kind of sums up our school year so far. Why is it that last week on Facebook my feed was full of photos of happy, smiling children, holding beautiful Etsy signs announcing “Back to School 2nd Grade,” and when I tried to get a “first day of school” photo, this is what I got?

Yep, it’s pretty much a mug shot.

So yeah, my routine back-to-school stress this year is complemented by my I-have-a-7th-grade-boy stress, with just a pinch of my-sophomore-in-college-waited-until-the-last-minute-to-figure-out-his-student-loans stress and my-sophomore-in-high-school-waited-until-the-last-two-days-of-summer-to-read-his-assigned-summer-English-novel stress. Oh, and my sophomore in high school also got a concussion last week in football practice and missed his first two days of school. There’s that, too.

And although it probably seems a little bit (or “a lot bit”) like I’m complaining, please know that I’m really not. Because with the brain farts (and the actual farts), the stinky football pads and the “Oh my gosh, Mom, you’re so melodramatic” attitude comes the unexpected hugs, the deep conversations over which Shark Tank investor we want to fund our hypothetical business and the “I forgot to tell you I love you” texts.

Back to school means back to stress. And probably the onset of The Great Acne War. That’s just the way it is. It’s how we choose to handle that stress, however, that determines who we really are. We can let it take over, or we can acknowledge its presence and then move on. In the process, we may not only manage to get through this thing called life (nod to Prince), but we may even learn to appreciate the messiness we encounter along the way because it means we are really living.


P.S. After writing this last night, Boy #3 has managed to once again lose his shoes and had to go to school wearing his dad’s tennis shoes.


P.P.S. After school today I got a phone call from Boy #3 telling me he had left his football pants in my classroom (even though he managed to remember to grab his shoulder pads, jersey and helmet) and would I please come bring them to the practice field? I can’t make this stuff up.

photo by: Mark Bonica

Things That Would Only Happen to Me (and Liz Lemon): The Christmas Edition, Part 2

Earlier this week I shared with you one of the highlights of Christmas vacation, and because I know the suspense must be KILLING you (I’m sorry if you weren’t able to sleep last night), I present to you “Things That Would Only Happen to Me (and Liz Lemon): The Christmas Edition Part 2.”

So after chasing a runaway dog for over an hour and a half and arriving late to my parents’ on Christmas Eve, we ended up having a very nice day. We got back home at a decent hour and the kids opened their traditional Christmas Eve gifts: a book and a new pair of PJ’s.

And then I turned to my annual Christmas Eve task: wrapping presents until my fingers bleed.

Or even just covered up.

Oh, well. At least I had Husband to help me. Right?


Husband put himself in charge of making sure the boys didn’t come downstairs while I was wrapping, which basically meant he would lie in the hallway with his laptop and watch episodes of “Psych” on Netflix.

Oh, yes, helpful indeed.

So in order to keep myself awake and alert while I wrestled the paper and bows, I decided to watch something that would put me in the Christmas spirit. And of course, I chose “Ghost Adventures.”

When Husband announced he was going to bed at 10:30, I said, “Yeah, I’ll probably be up there soon. I think I’m just about done.”

Three hours, 73 presents and countless ghosts later, I was still downstairs. The presents were finally all wrapped and I was tidying up the kitchen so our photos the next morning didn’t reveal to our future selves what incredible slobs we are. I admit, I was getting pretty spooked after nearly 5 hours of the paranormal marathon I had embarked on. So when I turned around and saw a figure standing in the doorway of the kitchen, I did what any rational mom would do on Christmas Eve night when everyone was asleep, and screamed my lungs out.

Then I realized that the figure wasn’t a ghostly apparition but Boy #2, and then I realized that he was about to turn around and see that Santa had already left gifts, even though I was still downstairs. Determined not to spoil the Christmas magic, I started running toward him so I could direct him back into the hallway and out of the line of sight of the incriminating evidence. But, since I was on a hardwood floor AND wearing my special Christmas socks, my feet suddenly flew off the ground — and I landed flat on my back.

And now, Boy #3 was up too.

Despite the pain shooting through my tailbone, I managed to crawl to Boy #2 and shove him into the hallway, his eyes now huge in confusion, and, possibly, horror. The bruised back (and elevated blood pressure) was worth it, though, because he didn’t see a thing.

So after getting Boy #3 back to bed and reading to Boy #2 so he could settle down enough to go to sleep, I finally fell into bed.

My back was throbbing, my fingers were cramped from repeatedly tearing off pieces of Scotch tape, and my pulse was now racing. But I got to sleep until 6 a.m., a whole 4 hours, until the Christmas morning mayhem began.

Right out of the story “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”…

Small-Town 4th of July Recap — Part I

I was giddy for a week, just waiting for the smorgasboard of photo opps that I knew would be waiting for me at my annual hometown 4th of July celebration. And while the rain threatened to deprive me of my fix, my camera and I, in the end, prevailed.

If this is your first visit to my hometown on Independence Day, you can catch up here and here.

Part I — Don’t Rain on My Parade

Well, it did.

But the dedicated parade-goers showed up with umbrellas, and in some cases, rain bonnets.

It had all the elements of a traditional small-town parade. There were cute clowns . . .

And freaky clowns holding a creepy monkey puppet and driving a Cub Cadet . . .

This boy was smart. He wore a satchel in order to keep both hands free for maximum candy grabbage.

Our sons and nephew, on the other hand, had to share the bag to a fold-up chair because their parents neglected to remember a plastic sack.

There were floats that were boats.

This one won the award for originality. Yeeeah, it’s a boat . . . with some balloons . . . and a sign . . . (I’m not sure what that says about the creativity of the judging committee.)

There were floats carrying children with guns.

I’m glad I didn’t have to be the one to tell this guy they didn’t win the originality award!

There were fancy cars . . .

and walking cans of Spam . . .

Mmmm . . . turkey Spam, my favorite!

And of course, it’s not officially a parade until the obligatory “girl-walking-while-carrying-a-goat-on-a-leash” entry.


How embarrassing! We showed up in the same outfit!

Her hat, however, was nothing compared to this hat.

Never seen a shower cap over a cowboy hat before? Yeah, it was a first for me too. But I’m thinking it just may catch on.

People were positioned throughout the parade route, giving away water like it was, well . . . water . . .

Yet despite the persistence of the volunteers, there were surprisingly few takers. Hmm . . . it may have something to do with the fact that it was raining. And the majority of us were thoroughly drenched. For some reason, water didn’t sound especially appealing.

This little guy won my award for cutest Hispanic cowboy.

And of course, our parade would not be complete without tractors, lots o’ tractors.

Red tractors . . .

Green tractors . . .

Orange tractors . . .

Even blue tractors! (Who knew?)

Abe Lincoln made an appearance

As did Lady Liberty . . .

But the papparazi were really waiting for . . .

the group that always has the fans screaming. That’s right . . .

The vintage lawn and garden tractor club.

As the parade came to an end, we all sloshed to grandma’s house while visions of next year’s parade danced in our heads.

There’s nothing like a small-town parade!

Stay tuned for Part II of my recap: The Carnival

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Guest Post—J.R. Cook on the Wii, Weight Watchers, and the Queen of England

Right now I’m soaking up the inspiration at BlissDom, a blogging conference held at the a-MAZ-ing Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville. So while I’m learning how to be a better blogger for you all, I asked a couple people to fill in for me here at Boogers and Burps. First off is my cousin, J.R. Cook, who is the founder of WiiWeightLossPlan.com and was one of the very first to recognize the Wii as a fitness tool, you know, back before the Wii Fit and all. I’ll let him tell his story…

Paula approached me last week about a guest blog post and to be honest, I’m not entirely sure what something like that entails or what I should even write about. Her site is about saving money and living life with her husband and 3 boys. I’m a 30 year old bachelor who works in the computer software industry and spends a lot of his free time on geeky things like video games and writing about them.

Being a 30 year old bachelor I thought I could write some interesting post about myself and see if any nice ladies would come flocking to my email box. I then realized the audience here is more than likely 30 something married mothers with kids so that idea didn’t pan out too well. So in that case, I’ll write about what it is that probably makes me single to begin with – being an overweight guy that plays video games in his free time.

A few years ago I took the video game interest and started a blog about how I could lose weight while playing video games. The Nintendo Wii had just been released and I thought it could be used as an exercise utility and with that I found a gimmick that I could blog about. I called it the Wii Weight Loss Plan and it actually worked.

In fact, it was working a little too well. I lost about 15 pounds and a PR guy found my site, this was the same PR guy who helped make the Red Paper Clip guy get international attention. Next thing I know he’s helping me out and I’m suddenly finding myself being interviewed by the local Omaha news station. A few weeks later I find myself on the front page of the Omaha World Herald and the Des Moines Register. Not too long after that I got a call from Good Morning America and it looked as if I would be hopping on a plane to New York City in the next couple days to be on the show. However, it got canceled last minute because the Queen of England was in town and evidently they thought she was more important than I was.

I hate the Queen of England.

My site was getting as high as 50,000 visitors a day. There were talks of a possible book deal, there was a company interested in doing a documentary with me, and I was doing 2 or 3 radio interviews a day. All of this attention over a few pounds lost, I hadn’t even gotten to my halfway point yet on my goal. It was insanity and that insanity made me realize something… I had started letting at the fame and attention and the readership go to my head and I wasn’t focusing on what was important at the time; I wanted to lose weight.

I got burned out quick because of this. I wasn’t happy with what the site had become. The PR guy was coming up with weird gimmicks for me to try and do that I didn’t want to do. This wasn’t me and I wasn’t enjoying it. So I stopped.

And the weight came back on.

More weight got added onto that.

Two years later and I know I need to do something. The first time around I didn’t really have any kind of plan. I planned to cut calorie intake and spend some time playing the Wii as a small workout. It did have good results though when I stuck with it.

This time around I’ve decided to take a more structured approach and joined Weight Watchers. I’m hoping this keeps me in check each day and week in keeping track of what I am eating and making sure I am staying within my “points” that I am allowed. I discovered I can use the Wii as my activity and for 30 minutes of playing Wii Sports or Wii Fit, I can gain back 2 points for that day to consume. I am then using my blog to inform people about the plan and to keep people up to date on my progress. The thing I like about Weight Watchers is the weekly official weigh in and the meetings. Now instead of me just telling people I lost 5 pounds, I have official proof!

Probably the coolest thing was in my first meeting we were talking about activities we could do. One lady said “I read this story about this guy who lost weight by playing Wii, which could be an activity” and about 8 or 9 other people in the room said they had read the same thing. They were all talking about me and had no idea I was the one they were talking about. I’m hoping to keep it that way – I do this because it’s what I want to do and I enjoy it. If other people enjoy it, great, but this is about me.

And that’s really the whole point of my long winded post here. If you don’t do something for yourself and you don’t enjoy doing it, then you won’t succeed in what you have set out to do. This goes for anything in life whether it’s weight loss, blogging, volunteering, etc. Having a mild amount of fame and attention could be fun and interesting for a while, but it won’t help you meet goals you have set for yourself. If you stay focused, have a little fun doing it, then amazing things can and will happen. For me that amazing thing is to get to my goal. My goal is definitely not to worry if the Queen of England will disrupt a future trip to New York City.

Something About You Is Different . . .

I can’t put my finger on it, but something’s different . . .

I know—you got new glasses. Is that it?


You’ve lost weight?

Wrong again, huh?

Hmm . . . this is gonna drive me crazy . . .

I’ve got it! You got your hair cut. And it’s quite fetching on you, I might add.

What? Not it either?

I don’t know then. Maybe it’s just an inner glow. Do you have a new inner glow? Wait, you’re not PREGNANT are you?!

Whew! Well, not that there would be anything WRONG with that, but . . .

I give up. I’ve got nothin’. What’s different, huh? C’mon, tell me . . .

Oh, you got a new site? A completely new look? You’re now on the WordPress platform, sporting a whole new template with enhanced functionality?

No, that’s not it.

I’ve got it! You plucked your eyebrows, didn’t you?

It’s about time . . .

Photo courtesy of flaivoloka