Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Interested to know the history behind Halloween? This link gives a short video and intriguing article on the subject. Whatever it has been in the past, it is certainly something different now – and honestly, the more I learn about what fuels it now, the more I am torn about celebrating any part of it at all - even though Halloween has been a happily celebrated holiday around our home for many years (included the years of our own youth.) Let’s start with the virtues of Halloween, before I get into the vices, shall we?



THE GOOD



Would you like to see pictures of my adorable family this Halloween? 

Hepworth Halloween 2016! Me: Peacock, Squire: Redneck, Atley: Princess, Jocelyn: Flamingo Jockey, Lincoln: Venus Fly Trap
He originally wanted to be an apple tree, but changed his mind when he saw a kid dressed up as a venus fly trap online.
This girl has been asking for princess dresses for months now. I'm happy to have been able to create a totally custom, unique dress for all her princess endeavors - and trademarked character free!
Jocelyn - the Flamingo Jockey. Just because! :)
I spent a considerable amount of time and effort to concoct these whimsical costumes. This was a true labor of love and I lost a few nights of sleep over them, but they were worth it – and my kids’ joyful expressions upon seeing them completed? Totally adequate payment. I don’t have many opportunities to really push my sewing abilities, but Halloween provides this opportunity for me every year and I like to take it on as a challenge. The costumes then go to the costume box and get to be treasured for years to come. 


It’s just plain good heart-warming fun seeing your facebook newsfeed and street filled with the faces of people in costume: newborn babies dressed up as old ladies or adorable creatures of one kind or another, little kids living it up dressed a favorite character or villain for the evening. The whit, effort, and execution of so many costumes provides surprise and enjoyment to my creative heart. Some of the ultra creepy stuff I could do without, but on the whole I view the costume element of this holiday a plus.



Along the same lines? Pumpkin carving/painting/decorating is part of the magic I love. (Except for that one Halloween I sliced the top of my hand between my thumb and pointer finger open and had to get 14 stitches . . . yeah, that wasn’t so cool.) But, the pumpkins. What an incredible creative outlet to behold! And a family-oriented activity at that.
Left: Bubbler Crab (Lincoln's pumpkin), Middle: Hillary Clinton (Squire's pumpkin), and Right: Atley's pumpkin with the requisite hearts, mean eyes, and pokey teeth.
In a society that turns a blind eye to the next door neighbors, Halloween does give a forum for connection with neighbors you may not normally see or reach out to. It can foster a kind of togetherness in a community.



This is probably a personal culture experience, here, but in my experience Trick-or-treating is more of a dad thing to do with the kids. I remember going out as a young girl in our neighborhood in Palmdale with my siblings, cousins, dad and my uncle Eddie. The moms would always stay home while we went out. And now as a mom myself, when I hosted Halloween Eve parties with my friends in Tucson, we tended to send the kids off with the dads, too. Perhaps it’s an important way for them to connect?



Trick-or-treating gets kids moving! I’m sure the walking doesn’t compensate for the hoards of candy they consume, but I’m just sayin’! There are some positives, here!



THE BAD



American culture has problems. I’m not sure which, but Halloween is either a reflection or fuel for many of them: debt, excess, waste, gluttony, consumerism, entitlement. . .



Now, while the costume element to Halloween is the best part of the holiday for me, I understand that not everyone has the resources or desire to sew or create a costume from scratch, and this pressure to come up with something can be seen mostly as just a drain on financial and other resources. And how many of these end up in the landfill eventually? Not to mention (I don’t know for certain – I just have a hunch) that most store-bought costumes (and the majority of clothing in general) are sewn by people in much more dire straights than most Americans would even like to discover.



Trick-or-treating in the traditional sense, I’m afraid, is the one most quickly fading away. Selective parties or “trunk-or-treat” get-togethers are on the rise - to the relief of many. These, however, limit the interaction amongst the neighborhood generally to people who already know each other. And many kids have their parents drive them to the wealthier neighborhoods in town, in order to get more bang for their buck (full-sized candy bars at every door, etc.) These actions mean less-walking, and less neighborhood interaction than trick-or-treating used to mean.



Then there’s the act of knocking on doors, late at night to ask for candy from strangers. It just reeks of entitlement to me and makes me uncomfortable, even as a one night kind of behavior.



Don’t get me started on all the waste!! The mountains of plastic trash from the candy, the drain on our bodies’ health, the time spent collecting candy, the tantrums, tears, and vomiting that inevitably come with all the candy consumption, the costumes in the landfill, and on and on. It is excessively wasteful in so many respects. 

Haunted houses and scary films are a large part of the holiday, especially for the Teen/Young Adult crowd. I used to enjoy the feeling of being afraid for the thrill it would bring, but now I avoid them and tend to stick only to movies I'd feel comfortable with my kids watching. From a personal spiritual perspective, I believe participating in things that bring fear attracts evil spirits. Um, no thanks. In addition -  a friend of mine mentioned on facebook a problem with haunted houses I hadn't considered until this year - they use images of mentally ill to incite fear. Sad, and problematic on many levels.

While you can definitely sense death as a theme, the focus is more on the fear of death than connection with those who have passed on as the holiday has historically meant. (Watch this video if you haven't already!) What do we have left of the original intent? Essentially NONE of the interesting elements of the original holiday and its connections with those who have passed on, and all the consumerism. Our version is pretty shallow if you asked me. All cheap thrills and mischief with no nod to ancestors or religious beliefs of any kind.   



THE UGLY



The Problem with the Candy:



CHILD SLAVERY IN THE COCOA BEAN INDUSTRY



Just a few days before Halloween this year, I learned some disturbing information about much of the chocolate industry and have decided to never eat chocolate from these companies ever again. (Check out “The Dark Side of Chocolate” and “Slavery: A Global Investigation” for a more personal look at what is going on.) Knowing that child slaves harvested the cocoa beans used to make my cheap indulgence doesn’t make it appetizing to me, somehow. . .



FOOD DYE PROBLEMS



And let’s say we cut out all the non-Fair-trade chocolate consumption. What’s left, generally speaking, is pumped up with artificial dyes. A reality needing more research, but not coming up with happy results, either.



ABORTED FETUS’ USED IN DEVELOPMENT OF SOME CANDY



And then there’s the ethical issue of some candy’s flavoring having been developed using HEK-293 (human embryonic kidney cell line.) This chart has a list of products using some such aborted fetal products in their development.) It must be noted that Kraft and Cadbury Adams have ended their contract with Senomyx (see updated list in link above), but I cannot in good conscience consume any of these products, knowing they were originally developed using these technologies:



KRAFT - CADBURY ADAMS PRODUCTS:
• Black Jack chewing gum
• Bubbaloo bubble gum
• Bubblicious bubble gum
• Chiclets
• Clorets
• Dentyne
• Freshen Up Gum
• Sour Cherry Gum (Limited)
• Sour Apple Gum (Limited)
• Stride
• Trident

CADBURY ADAMS CANDIES:
• Sour Cherry Blasters
• Fruit Mania
• Bassett's Liquorice All sorts
• Maynards Wine Gum
• Swedish Fish
• Swedish Berries
• Juicy Squirts
• Original Gummies
• Fuzzy Peach
• Sour Chillers
• Sour Patch Kids
• Mini Fruit Gums
• Certs breath mints
• Halls Cough Drops


You can find more on that at this link.



SUGAR IS TOXIC



And then there’s just - all the sugar! Sugar, not fat is the real culprit of heart disease, it seems. (That said, I don't think one night of splurging will be the end of us!)



WHAT WE DECIDED TO DO ABOUT IT



This year, we talked about the problems with the Cocoa Bean industry with our kids. We showed them pictures of the children harvesting the beans and told them of their conditions. We all unanimously decided that we didn’t want to support the companies doing this business. (If you’re curious to know what we handed out this year to trick-or-treaters, now you know!)



While not trick-or-treating or indulging in sweets at all would definitely be one solution, we chose a more moderate direction this year. Squire took the kids trick-or-treating in order to connect with the neighbors. I made a large batch of my “witch finger” pretzels to pass out to the neighbors for good will. At the end of the night, all the chocolate was “cashed” in and we went to the store and let them each pick out a Fair Trade chocolate bar as substitute (or in Lincoln’s case – some sea salt sea weed instead. Haha! That kid.)



We are still trying to decide what to do with the chocolate candy. So far, we are leaning towards sharing it with homeless people needing a pick-me-up (which would match one of the original traditions more closely) or mailing it to Troops. I like the idea of making an effort at this time each year, to donate to micro-loan programs in Africa to help with the root of this problem – poverty. Maybe even fund-raising with YumEarth lollipops to raise awareness and money for such programs? As you can see, solutions are still very much in the works.



BETTER TRADITIONS?



There is an element to engaging in the cultural celebrations of my country and childhood, I don’t want to give up entirely. But maybe there are better ways to do it? I think holiday's original theme theme of death and connection with ancestors could actually be a great opportunity for doing family history research and sharing old family stories throughout the month? For LDS, perhaps an extra visit to a local temple - a place where we believe we connect our ancestors to ourselves through sacred ordinances - is in order. Not everyone is religious, but everyone has to face death in some form or another. Some reflection on that in some capacity within each of our own religious/non-religious paradigms seems in order. Or maybe a time to visit an old folk’s home and talk with the residents about the wisdom they have collected over the course of their lives?



While trick-or-treating declines, it’s never too late to invite the neighbors over for a home-baked treat, open-house style on All Hallows Eve.



Halloween traditions in our future have yet to be decided, but we're considering a variety of changes in light of this new information.


I want to hear what you think! Did you already know about these problems I have shared about the candy industry? How do you feel about Halloween? Favorite traditions? Things you’d like to abandon about the holiday? Tell me in the comments section!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Kissing My Life: Happy, Messy Moments



I found this sign in a home decor shop in Pocatello. I loved the saying and so I took a quick, crappy picture of it. It says, "Kiss your life. Accept it just as it is. Today. Now. So that those moments of happiness you're waiting for don't pass you by."

This post is devoted to snapshots of some such moments I've experienced at home with our three rugrats over the past 6 months. I hope you enjoy seeing a bit of our messy, crazy, happy little life in these photos. When everyone is grown, these are the sorts of things I hope they remember from their childhood. Life is good.

June 4, 2016

Today we were heading in the house from the car and Jocelyn was refusing to come in with me. "But it's hot in the car!" I told her. She blows on her hands and says matter of factly with a know-it-all bouncy head nod, "Off!" (She's blowing herself off to keep cool.) Then she blew on me to make sure I was staying cool.

On a related note, if you give her a tissue, she'll put it on her face and blow raspberries with her mouth to mimic the sound of nose blowing.
Saying "Cheese!" for the picture.
Jocelyn brushing daddy's hair after a long day at work.
Joce hiding in her favorite spot - our closet.
July 9, 2016

Lincoln:"Mom, you're the best mom I ever had!"
 and also this gem:
Lincoln: "Mom, did you know that Gorilla glue is the strongest glue in the whole world? But, there is something even stronger than Gorilla glue."
"Oh, yeah - what's that, Lincoln?"
"Heavenly Father's Love. It is the most powerful thing in the world! Even more powerful than Gorilla glue!"
The Chicken Whisperer holding Betty.

Proud to have completed a really hard puzzle (with only a little help from Daddy.)

August 11, 2016
Atley and I get dressed in our jammies tonight and she's looking at us through my closet door mirrors. She says,
"Mom, you're cute, but I'm cuter. You're still a little cute, but I'm cuter, huh?"
"Yes, honey, you're definitely cuter than me."
 
Lovely girl.


Lovely girl, with my makeup smeared all over her neck and face. . .

August 19, 2016
Lincoln: "Mom, I wanna tell you a joke."
Me: "Please, tell me your joke!"
Lincoln: "An elephant with an ant head!" *Laughs hysterically* "I joked you!"

Self Portrait, by Lincoln
That non-flouridated toothpaste has its drawbacks . . .
September 1, 2016
Lincoln and Jocelyn walk into the living room covered in mud. Lincoln excitedly says, "Mom, does it look like your kids had fun?!" Me: "Mmmhmm. . . "

YOGURT!!

The ottoman is the perfect place for pom pom storage.

September 5, 2016
Lincoln to Atley: "If a chicken pecks you, be like a boy, don't cry!"
Atley thinks about it for a second and responds: "If I get pecked, I'll cry!"

Lincoln was climbing up on this beam to be by the chickens as they roosted. (Squire was winterizing the coop panels, and it was getting late!)

All dressed up with no-where to go. For Atley, dressing up is a way of life.

September 9, 2016
Lincoln: “Mom, Don’t you wish you could read a manual that would teach you how to get your kids to listen to you? That would be so awesome, huh?!”
Me (about 15 minutes later): "Hey Linc, So, if you were going to write a manual that would help kids listen to their parents, what would you say? What would help YOU be able to listen to your mom and dad better?"
Lincoln: "I don't know! You could write it. You know better than me."

Home school Grocery store for a math lesson
Lentil Box pants, all the rage.

Workin' on their swing dance moves.
I bought some goggles for the kids. Naturally, they all wanted to wear them home.
Rockin' the headbands. Lincoln there in spirit with his mirror drawing.
Found this cool riding toy at Farm House Furniture. Life's a game.
Harvesting rainwater.
Sporting homemade felt masks. One of them is excited to be photographed.
On a mission, most likely to succeed.
Miss Independent dressed herself and is painting a place mat.

Boyhood happiness, right here.
Sleeping in a box? Why not?
Snuggly morning face.

A rare shot of Jocelyn's hair NOT looking like a tornado ran over the backside of it.

Building a fort with a tarp and rope in the backyard.
Helping me make soil blocks for starting seedlings.
Jocelyn's go-to move when music comes on. This one was to Mindy Gledhill's "Pocketful of Poetry."
Favorite breakfast spot, right out there with the chickens.

Undercover photographer.
Self portrait #3,472 By: Atley
Lincoln and Atley love to ask Squire for an "under dog" on the swings every day he is home. Lincoln also regularly asks about Squire's schedule in the following manner, "Dad, did the doctors say you can stay home today?!"

Stirring cement for daddy.
Life for the next year and half.
Block castle with revolving doors.

Oh, my! Haha!
 
Putting on smiles, after a successful battle with some troubling car trouble.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Smashing Success: Our Anniversary Getaways in Idaho

Squire received a couple of unexpected days off at work. We decided to put them towards our 8th wedding anniversary. I asked my mom if she would be willing to come up to Idaho to watch our kidlets so we could get away for a couple of days. She and my dad generously obliged our request.

My parents left Sunday late afternoon for Warm River Campground after church with our kids, and Squire and I had the afternoon together alone. Honestly, the house was eerily quiet without them there. Quietness in our home makes me wonder if everyone is alive, or if someone is coloring on the couch with permanent marker or something! Ha! Getting out of the house helped me settle into the reprieve of a few precious days of alone time with Squire.

On Monday, we got up at 6:30am to pack up and head out. We got breakfast at 5th Street Bagelry in Pocatello and took to the road for Driggs, Idaho.
 
We stopped into Broulim's (the local grocery store) to get a couple things, and then across the street to Wrap and Roll  for some wraps for lunch. Squire said, "I don't even like wraps, but I like this. I would get this again." (Sesame Beef - excellent! Chicken Curry was good, too!) Then we drove up Darby Canyon to hike to the Darby Wind Caves. And now! Here are approximately 1.2 million pictures to document the beauty up there.
(By the way, Jocelyn scratched my face a few days before this trip - hence the nice slash scab across my cheek.) :)

 It was windy higher up on the clearer parts of the trail. Squire was cute and thought to bring a kite for us to fly a bit. It didn't go too high up, but it was nice to try while we caught our breath a bit.
There were a few of these plants with orange triangular-shaped berries. I have tried to research what they are, but haven't found out yet. There were also wild raspberries growing along much of the trail. We snacked on a few on our way up. I would really love to do this hike earlier in the year as there are wildflowers everywhere! But the petals had already fallen off of most of the flowers. (August 22nd is the day we did this hike.) I bet it is gorgeous late Spring or early Summer. Even late Summer, it was still stunning - as you can see for yourself!
In researching a bit about the hike before we left, we read this story about how 5 people died by lightening strike by the caves. I was reassured when I checked the weather and found that there was 0% chance of rain on the day of our hike. We were glad to have known the story before we encountered this monument. It was tragic, and yet you could see miracles in it, too.
 A chickadee both interested and apprehensive about my nearness.
The waterfall. We took a break and collected some of this waterfall water as we had read that it was excellent to drink. I took a sip of it unfiltered and I was fine, but drank most of it through my Seychelle filteration water bottle. It was very cold and good, but the best-tasting water award still goes to the tap water in Vienna, Austria in my book.
 The view from behind the waterfall.
 
 
 Hiking the last few STEEP steps of the mountain. Feeling the hike at this point.
 
 
 The cave entrance!
 
 
 
Don't plan to go on this hike without proper lighting equipment! My head lamp did not work more than 1/4 of the time (with new batteries, too!), but our Fenix TK22 flashlight performed so well other hikers wanted to know what light we were using. (*Note to self: You pay for cheap quality stuff in other ways!) The re-usable PaqLite glow necklaces were also a source of comfort inside the pitch black cave.
 
 
We went into the cave as far as we could without needing climbing gear. We crawled through holes about the size of a window pane and could not quite stand up in some of the cave rooms. It was very cold inside, and slightly damp as well. We brought extra jackets, which I would recommend for anyone planning to do this hike. Climbing inside the caves felt like some otherworldly adventure, but Squire - and another tough-guy-hiker we met inside - were anxious to get out. "If there was an earthquake . . ."
 
 Gorgeous view looking out.

 Chipmunks were abundant. Managed to snap a photo of this little guy.
 
It was a phenomenal hike! We hiked to the top, explored the cave and got back down in about 4 1/4 hours.

We then headed over to our lodging for the evening - The Fin and Feather Inn, in Victor, ID. An outstanding Bed and Breakfast. Lovely room with a claw foot bath tub and walk in shower, immaculately clean, beautifully decorated, excellent views and interesting company at breakfast the next day. (We were the youngest guests, everyone else was retired. The others were from San Franscisco, Panama (Germans!), and France.) We enjoyed visiting with them for over an hour the next day over a delicious breakfast. Would highly recommend it for anyone looking to getaway for a couple of days. It was great!
 We stayed in the Wildflower room.
 The view from our room.
 The bird in the Aspen tree outside our window, Tuesday morning.
But, let's not get ahead of ourselves. We still have Monday night to share! We planned to eat out at a nice Thai restaurant in Driggs after our hike, but we got back later than we had planned. We cleaned up, drove to Jackson Hole and opted for dinner from a hole in the wall taco place instead. We spent the evening at the Playhouse watching "The Ballad of Cat Ballou." We were a little disappointed in the consistent cursing throughout the show, and one of the dances was a bit too racy to truly be classified as "family-friendly entertainment." That said, the singing, and acting were top notch, the piano player was outstanding, and everyone was hilarious. We enjoyed our short time in Jackson. We only wish we had had more time to window shop!
After breakfast, we headed to the Victor Emporium to pick up a "World Famous" Huckleberry shake to share.
 
 On our way over, we spotted cranes walking through a field.
We then made our way to the Rexburg temple to do an endowment session together. It was windy - haha! :) We had a great few days together and we were excited to head back home to our kids.
Ever wondered what Squire would look like with a mustache? Now you know.
 

While we were exploring the Teton Valley, my parents took the kids to Warm River Campground in their RV. They all loved playing in the shallow water . . .
 Digging and scooping rocks, mud and water . . .
 They cuddled with Mimi . . .
 And went on multiple bike rides around the site. . .
 
 
 They ate all their favorite foods and had smores for dessert . . .
 
 
 They caught fish . . .
 Snuggled with Grandpa . . .
 And caught frogs, too . . .
 
 
 And did it all over again the next day!
 
 
They were three very happy campers! My mom suggested that this could become a special tradition - an Anniversary getaway for us and a camping trip with the grand babies for them. We all whole-heartedly agree!

All in all, I'd say it was a smashing success of Idaho travel! Literally! On their drive back to Pocatello, a potato hit my parent's windshield!! When in Idaho. . . enjoy all the great finds I shared with you in this post! And watch out for Potato trucks!!

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