It's Advent that's supposed to be a mini-Lent, when we take a hard look at our souls and make whatever changes we need to, in preparation for Christmas. But really, there's nothing like Halloween to highlight just exactly what is wrong with me as a wife, mother, Catholic, and human being.

Besides carving jack-o'-lanterns, I have long since abandoned the idea of decorating the house for Halloween. We have no trouble getting decorations up, but taking them down again? Ain't happening. Our low point came a few years ago when the five-foot spider made of garbage bags that we nailed to the shed did not, as I anticipated, get taken care of by hurricane season. We did add a Santa hat when Giant Spider was still up in December, but by the time the tulips were budding, it just wasn't funny anymore. The only thing that saved us was that we live in one of those small, rural New England towns where you are considered a fancy-pants if all of your cars are registered for road use, rather than being pressed into service as a crisis pregnancy center for raccoons.

So I'm afraid I can't offer you much advice about how to turn your house into a home of elegant yet whimsically spooky wonders. We don't have a sidewalk anyway, so we don't get any trick-or-treaters; and even if we did, they'd find no one home. Yep, we're proud members of the tribe of nomadic poor people who descend like locusts on the neighborhoods of struggling doctors and lawyers. Why? Because rich people have better candy, duh.  Our founding fathers didn't die face down in the mud of Vietnam only to see my children struggling through the night with only Mary Janes, Good and Plenty, nameless lollipop blobs, and Bit-o'- Chicken to sustain them, like I did when I was a kid. Those were dark times. We can do better.

What else is wrong with me? I didn't even consider telling my sixteen-year-old that she's too old to go trick-or-treating. I just signed up for a seminar on how to pay for college -- her college! Not mine! -- and I don't have a lot more "let's face facts about just how old you are" left in me just now, thanks.

Setting reasonable sugar limits? Whatever, whatever, whatever. I do this holistic thing where I listen to my body. My body says, "Look, a sugar bowl!" I say, "Shut up, idiot. You can't just eat sugar," and my body is like, "No, but it would be easy! Just lick your finger and stick it in the bowl!" And I'm like, "I know, but what if the kids saw me and thought it was okay?" and my body is all, "Kids? What are kids? That was just an illusion! The only thing that is real is getting something sweet RIGHT NOW, and NO, I DO NOT MEAN RAISINS."  And I reply, " Your idea has merit. This Laffy Taffy, for instance, doesn't even have sugar it in at all, just some dextrose and stuff. Plus, it has literary merit! Down the hatch!" Then all I have to do is remember to stuff all the wrappers in a tuna can so no one knows what I've done.

Safety? Sure, ask me, and I'll tell you all about our rigorous scientific experiments to determine just how toxic glow sticks really are, just what a bad idea it is to dress a kid who care barely walk in a costume they can barely lift, and just how festive the nurse's station at the local ER gets when you show up with the most adorable little vampire ever, who was so excited that it was finally Halloween that he slipped and broke his wrist after scoring his first Snickers bar.

Preserving the sanctity of the Feast Day? Oh, yarr. The first thing I did this year was to Google "all saints day 2014 holy day of obligation" and then second thing I did was email my husband: "ABROGATED! ABROGATED! WOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Then I bought a download of saint ABC's from one of those nice ladies online, so the kids can be educated in the Faith while Daddy and I go lie down. Done and done.

But costumes for kids? Oh yes, I can give you advice about that. In seventeen years of making Halloween costumes for kids, I have discovered that there are really only a few rules:

  • Vampire fangs make people drool. That's just how life is. Put some fake blood on their chins and tell them it looks scary, which is not technically a lie.
  • If they want to be cold because being warm will ruin their costume, then let them be cold. 
  • No matter how they look, tell them they look magnificent, because it will make them happy, and happy children are, by definition, magnificent. 
  • Remember, it's going to be dark.

Have a lovely weekend. And please don't look inside that tuna can.