Saturday, November 1, 2008

My Favorite Holiday

I know it may sound strange that Halloween is my favorite holiday, but it is. Don't get me wrong, I love all the other holidays too, but there is something so special about this time of year. When I was a kid it was all about getting candy and going out after dark. Now it's about seeing my own kids getting excited about the very same things. I love making their costumes, painting their faces, decorating the's wonderful. And probably the best thing about it for me is that as quickly as it arrives, it is just as quickly gone. I have never been too excited about holidays that require so much preparation (Christmas) and then leave you feeling down when they are over.

With Halloween it's just the right level of excitement and then it's time to move on until next year. So I'm off now to prepare for my final Halloween party. It's for my five-year-old daughter and she is quite excited. I've included a photo from my eldest son's Halloween party last Saturday. This is the table with all the goodies on it. Hope you all had a wonderful Halloween. BOOOOOOO!

Oh, by the way. Guest blogger KC Dyer will be posting tomorrow. Make sure to stop by and check out what she has to say.

Friday, October 31, 2008


I'm SO excited that I get to post here at THE NOVEL GIRLS on this eve of eves!

You see, Halloween is my favorite holiday. Not only that, but it plays a very significant part in my book, in its guise as the Celtic New Year, the Feast of Samhain.

In honor of that, I have decided to post a sneak peak snippet of WONDROUS STRANGE! Enjoy!

October 31st

Up and down,
up and down,
I will lead them up and down...
I am fear'd in field and town!
Goblin, lead them up and down...

Puck’s tortured words rang in her ears as Kelley lifted her head, struggling against the darkness that threatened to descend upon her. She stared in horror as the Central Park Carousel shuddered in the cloud-shattered moonlight. Though no one was there to operate the machinery, the platform lurched into motion and the painted horses began to bob up and down. The gilt and jeweled trappings of saddle and bridle glimmered, winking at Kelley like hundreds of wicked, malevolent eyes.

In the sky above the merry-go-round, amidst clouds bruised purple and black by the violent winds, a figure appeared – hovering in the air astride a fiery roan horse. Kelley felt the hot sting of tears on her cheeks as she looked up and met the eyes of the Rider. He stared down at her – cold, pitiless, with no hint of recognition in his beautiful, haunted face.

Beneath him – driven to madness by the presence of the Rider on his back – the roan horse screamed defiance. Bucking and rearing, it lashed out with hooves of flame.

The Carousel began to turn.

In the distance, Kelley heard the sound of the hunting hounds.
The Rider drew his sword, the blade flaring like a firebrand. Kelley’s breath strangled in her throat as the Carousel began to spin faster and faster.

Smoky, glittering figures coalesced out of the air to ride the painted mounts. Bloodthirsty and red-eyed, brandishing swords of flame, their joy was a terrible thing to behold. Beneath them, the wooden horses transformed, snorting furiously and stamping hooves on the spinning Carousel stage.

Then they burst forth. Legs churning, they galloped madly into the night, climbing an unseen path into the heart of the roiling storm.

After centuries spent imprisoned, locked in the chains of uneasy, enchanted sleep, the Wild Hunt was awake.

It was Samhain Eve. Tonight they would ride out. Tonight they would kill. Nothing in the world could stop the Faerie war-band – not with the Rider and the Roan Horse at their head...

I am fear'd in field and town!
Goblin, lead them up and down...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Orange and Black

Since everyone else shared their experiences with candy, I thought I'd switch it up a little bit and write about my own personal little Halloween duo. I mentioned my three neurotic cats back in my introductory post. Well, two of them are fitting for this week’s topic – a ten-year-old long-haired orange tabby and a five year-old-short-haired solid black cat. (And as for the third, a fat gray tabby, thank goodness he can’t read, because he already has some serious jealousy issues!). As all people and animals tend to do in our house – these two have garnered many nicknames over the years, and collectively, my husband calls the two of them, orange and black, “Halloween.”

We adopted “Mr. Orange*” (*note real their names have been concealed to protect them from any embarrassment!) from the Humane Society literally an hour before they planned to euthanize him. He thinks he’s in charge of the house. And he will seriously set you straight if you get in his way. When we adopted him, he’d obviously just barely escaped a terrible fight – he was limping and cut and missing clumps of hair. The woman at the Humane Society suggested it may have been with a coyote, which seemed hard to believe given that a cat doesn’t usually walk away from one of these fights, but this cat is as scrappy as they come. He thinks he’s part dog (He waits for my husband at the door every day when he comes home from work.) and part human (He persistently tries to jump on the kitchen table and drink water from our water glasses – no ceramic cat bowls for him, thank you very much!). He covets attention –getting so excited at the vet that it’s always a struggle to get him back in the carrier to come home. He was neutered a little too late in life, so he – and I’m paraphrasing the vet here – still exhibits the mating behavior, even though he doesn’t exactly have the means to carry it out. In other words, he likes to steal my kids’ stuffed animals, drag them into a corner, and have his way with them. And yet he is perhaps the sweetest animal I’ve ever met. He spends the better part of the evening curled up on my husband’s lap, purring

“Mr. Black” was the runt of a litter found abandoned at a gas station. We adopted him from a no-kill shelter – the only one of his brothers and sisters not already adopted. Apparently, it is harder to adopt out black cats. He is kind and needy, and a stereotypical fraidy cat. He takes one look at one of my children and runs and hides – not that I can blame him, when the younger one still seems to think tail-pulling should be an Olympic sport. He completely favors me – any time I sit down, anywhere in the house, he pops into the room and on to my lap with in a matter of seconds. He is also an avid stuffed-animal stealer, though, in his case, I suspect he was taken from his mother too early. He likes to drag stuffed animals into the hallway, kneed them with his paws, and suck on them, as if he were trying to nurse.

But here’s the beauty of my orange and black cats – they absolutely love each other. From the moment we brought Mr. Black into the house five years ago, Mr. Orange took him under his wing, and Mr. Black latched right on to that. The two of them spend most of the day sleeping and curled up together, grooming one another, or playing. Which is kind of amazing, considering that tough, tough Mr. Orange spends the rest of the day trying to bully our sweet fat gray tabby.

So there you have it, our Halloween kitties. And as for the humans in our household—well, we’re sort of being feline traitors this year on Halloween. At my son’s request, we’re all dressing up as Scooby Doo and the gang – Scooby, Scrappy, Shaggy, and me, Velma. But I’m guessing our own little Halloween duo will never be any the wiser. I’m sure they’ll be safely tucked under the bed as soon as the first trick-or-treater rings the doorbell.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

From GooGoos to Game Boy

When my boys were little guys they would rather wear a costume than any piece of regular clothing. Will, my youngest, would wake up and slip into his Power Ranger suit one day, alternated by Captain Hook and Buzz Lightyear on the other days. By the time they turned five and seven I had bought every Star Wars costume on the market. So when October 31st rolled around, we were fully prepared.

Halloween is big in Franklin, Tennessee. On West Main Street, lined with blocks of antebellum houses, the residents transform their homes to resemble anything from Amityville Horror to a Charlie Brown Halloween. I’ve heard they have to spend close to $500.00 on candy to keep up with the vast number of children who prefer to Trick or Treat in their prestigious corner of town.

After filling their pillowcases full of every kind of chocolate and hard candy ever made we’d head home to count. The boys would head straight to the bedroom they shared together and dump out their candy onto the floor. Michael and Will would take great pride in meticulously sorting through their stashes and lining up each piece to create their own master candy collage. While my children were delighting in piling their GooGoo Clusters, Butterfingers, Kit Kat’s and taffy together, all I could see was my soon to be escalated dental bill and silver fillings dotting their candid expressions.

That’s when I got the idea to offer up a barter.

The deal I struck was this: Eat all the candy you want tonight, brush your teeth really well, and then trade it all in for a brand new video game tomorrow. To me, the $85.00 for the newest video game was well worth the cavity prevention! And to them, the hottest new video game was worth any trade, Halloween candy and all! So at the end of the night, the boys handed me what was left of their candy, with the understanding that we’d head directly to Best Buy for the video game of their choice. The best part of the trade is by the time they beat all the levels of the new video game, they had forgotten all about the candy!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Like Taking Candy From a Toddler...

Halloween is probably my favorite holiday. Of course, Thanksgiving and Christmas are right behind, with all the stomach-exploding and gift-exchanging. But Halloween has always been a special time of year for me, ever since I was a wee young 'un.

See, my birthday is right before Halloween, so my birthday parties growing up always involved scary movies, trips to Haunted Houses, with some pumkin carving thrown in there. Then, I got to college and continued the tradition with pumpkin-flavored ale and Halloween movie marathons.

And I'm so excited to pass down my love of all things Halloween to my son. Last year, he was only a few months old, not really trick-or-treat capable. This year, however, It's On. He can toddle around and sort-of follow directions. So, I plan on dressing him up in a dinosaur costume and dragging him around the block for all the neighbors.

I'll probably just point to him and hold my hand out when my neighbors open their doors. Kind of like, "Look, see? He's in a costume. You are now socially required to give me candy. Now fork over the goods, lady!"

There are lots of disadvantages to having a toddler, but I seem to have discovered the one huge advantage: Candy. All mine. Because he's still young enough to think swapping his entire bag of candy for the television remote is a good deal.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Halloween Swap

When I was a kid, our Halloweens were intense. Seriously intense. My trick-or-treating years were spent in a neighborhood with blocks upon blocks upon blocks of houses, and so many kids, that you literally moved down the streets in one big blob.

My brother and I used pillowcases to hold our loot, and more than one Halloween had us going back home to drop off the first weighted pillowcase for a second empty one. And then, at the end of the night, we'd sit in the middle of the living room and dump all of our candy on the floor. That's when the swap would start.

We'd make happy little organized stacks of the candy: suckers in one pile, candy bars in another (of course, separated by specific type of candy bar), etc. When we were done, we'd each pull all the stuff we didn't like out and offer it to our parents. Lucky Mom and Dad! And then, my brother and I would begin the trade.

We each had our favorites, and by the time we were done haggling, he'd have most of his and I'd have most of mine. BUT then, we'd have count (I am serious) each and every piece of candy, to make sure we had the same amount. Sad, huh? Whoever had the least amount could take whatever they wanted from the other person's pile to even up the tally.

Usually, that would start another round of trading. After a while, if our disagreements reached a certain decibel, my mother would make the final trades and that would be that. And then, we were allowed to take these massive pillowcases stuffed with candy to our bedrooms--to eat when and how we wanted.

Can you imagine? I'm not such a cool mom. While my kids don't get nearly as much candy as my brother and I did back in the day, they still get a fair amount. And it's kept in their trick or treat containers (no pillowcases!) in the kitchen, so I can somewhat monitor their intake.

Even so, those Halloween nights so long ago have stayed in my memory. The cool, crisp evenings, the mob of kids, the trade offs with my brother, and then hiding my candy somewhere so he wouldn't sneak in and take any of it. Which, honestly, he probably wouldn't have--he was a pretty honest kid, but well--seeing as I'd sneak into HIS room to go through his stash every now and then, it made perfect sense to me that he'd do the same.

This week, we're carving pumpkins and readying costumes. And before I know it, it will be Friday evening, and I'll watch my kids do their thing...and I'll think about how much has time has passed, how many things have changed, and yet--how many things remain the same.

Happy Halloween! May this year you have all treats and no tricks!