The Discovery of Trick or Treating.

This is the first year we haven’t participated in our Church’s Trunk or Treat, pouring oodles of hours into creating a family theme (or, in the case of last year, throwing it together at the absolute last minute three days after what would be a half-a-year-changing wreck.)

It’s not that we quit – our church decided to not do Trunk or Treat this year. We are on a break.

So, we had to figure out what it is people do these days, in the 2016s, for Trick or Treating. Is this still a thing? Can you still knock on stranger’s doors and expect to receive candy? Do you go somewhere else or do it in your own neighborhood?

We asked our neighbors, and they suggested a parade / neighborhood somewhat nearby. Their Daddy was out of town and our Daddy couldn’t leave work in time for the 4pm parade, so we decided to band together to explore this new and unknown territory.

I checked Ali out of Gymnastics early so that we could rush across town, park down the street, run up the street, both my children wearing full-length black costumes on the record hottest Halloween in the state of Alabama (pretty sure it hit 120 degrees…or at least 90.)

There were droves of people at every intersection, pouring into the town center to see what must be a magnificent parade. Right?

The sweating kids were excited. This was what life was all about. Collecting gobs of candy from parade floats, then trying out this mystical antiquated thing called Trick or Treating.

I found an empty space next to the fence and set out to hold our spot.

Except that the kids were whiny.

And hot.

And bored.

And wanted to play on the playground.

So I held their light sabers in a spot-saving manner while they abandoned me to go frolic.

The families next to us tried to squeeze out our space. One of their kids was dressed as a policeman and had a whistle that he was determined to break the world record for how many times in a row he could blow it, or at least discover how many blows it would take for my ears to bleed out. I heard a rumor that no candy would be thrown at the parade this year – and that these barriers were new so how would the kids be able to get the candy?

I pondered what I was doing with my life and questioned my sanity for taking this on.

Our neighbors joined us, which added another adult in the effort of saving our fence spot while the now-four children re-abandoned us.

Finally it was parade time. We called our whining sweaty children back from the playground. Noah put on a good pout-and-stomp show – the kind that makes a mother want to scream for mercy and also WHY AM I DOING ALL OF THIS FOR YOU?!

But we got them lined up at the fence and the parade started. After the first two floats, we had scored a life saver, half-crunched.

I groaned inwardly, suffering from the repeated whistling of the boy next to us as he destroyed my ears and my soul.

The floats kept coming, mostly just staring at us and every now and then gracing us with a thrown item. But the items they did throw didn’t make it past the fence, taunting us as if we were penned-up zoo animals.

Finally, I decided it was time to go rogue. I let Ali climb under the fence to grab items that were in the road between floats. She was able to get a few things, including a pretty awesome stuffed snake, some Mardi Gras(?) beads and a Moon Pie, and a few pieces of candy that she divided between the other three kids, all too young to break the law like her.

After this supposedly famed parade, this was the contents of Noah’s bag.

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As soon as the last float went through, people immediately disappeared. We found ourselves alone at the fence, the whole village abandoned, and we were very confused.

We thought we were supposed to go Trick or Treating immediately after this, but we looked down the street to the left and no one was doing so.

We had the presence of mind to, before marching our children into the unknown, grab a few pictures.

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Their poses and expressions eased our stress and lowered our blood pressure, breathing a tiny bit of new life into our perilous motherhood situation.

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We walked left, weaving through the empty neighborhood, avoiding cars careening around the corners, growing in confusion.

What had we done wrong?

Where did the village disappear to?

WHERE were the Trick or Treaters?

After half a mile of sweaty dangerous walking, we picked a random dark house, shrugged our shoulders, and told our kids to go knock on the door.

Considering they’d never done this in their lives, we were surprised they agreed. The love for candy overcomes all fears.

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The house was silent, aside from a yipping dog.

The kids all of a sudden jumped with excitement. They yelled back at us, “She said she’s putting the dog up then coming back!!”

After a few more minutes, she returned, with candy carefully laid out on a silver platter.

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They ran back to us, high as a kite over their newfound ability to extract candy from a stranger.

But yet, the rest of the neighborhood was still a ghost town – and not in the fun Halloween way.

I texted complaints to Chris and a friend. They both responded with a street name we should try. Of course it was on the other side of the village – another half a mile away, but it sounded right, and they sounded confident.

So we began walking again. Slowly, as our Darth, Random Jedi, Superwoman, and Thor had by now lost 50% of their personal hydration from the heat.

We stopped at CVS for a bathroom break. As I and my kids were waiting (and had bought a water bottle to ensure their life would continue and so we wouldn’t get kicked out of the drug store), a tall man in a business suit looked over at us, scowled, and said loudly to the lady in line next to him,

THEY sure are sugared up already.”

She looked over her shoulder, scowled, and said loudly,

“You’re right. But what are they doing in here?”

I was so confused by the apparent fact that they didn’t think I could hear or understand them, and also because my kids were wilting, not jumping around. I looked at them and said, “They’re in here because our friends needed a bathroom break.”

The man turned cooly and ignored us. The lady met my gaze and wrinkled her face up into an even bigger scowl. I was ready to knock her ridiculous seven inch wedges out from under her feet, but I held it together. For the children. For the holiday. For my unblemished criminal record.

Finally, we made it to the street that had been suggested.

And our mouths hung open.

Thousands of people filled the streets. Cars could not possibly get through. Every house had a table or a giant theme set up in their front yard. Kids were lined up getting candy from each one.

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Nothing could be more opposite than the empty street we’d started on.

Two giant floats from the parade slowly drove up, and then backed back down the street, blasting Michael Jackson.

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(And actually housing the ghost of Michael.)

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Right as we found this Halloween Utopia, Chris also found us, adding a much needed third adult to our situation.

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The kids began running from house to house, filling their quickly burgeoning buckets with the miracle of the season, thanking us profusely for bringing them here.

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After a total of three and a half miles of walking and full bags and buckets for everyone, we slowly walked back to our cars in the dark, the children filled with the glow from their new knowledge that Trick or Treating is actually a real thing – because I’m pretty sure they assumed it was just a nice fairytale before last night.

The Day The Tide Turned Brown.

The history of Alabama Football is nuanced and deep in its tradition. Why, for instance, would our mascot be an elephant, yet we’re called The Crimson Tide?

It came from a simple phrase used by a journalist.

In 1907, there was a particularly momentous game – the Iron Bowl, in fact – that was played in a sea of red mud which stained the Alabama jerseys, formerly white, into a deep crimson. Hugh Roberts, a sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald, used the catchy phrase “Crimson Tide” in his article to capture the imagery, and that was that.

…So it would be fitting if another momentous game caused a shift in the naming of the team.

Such was Saturday’s game.

It was a huge game from the outset – two undefeated teams this late in the season, ranked 1 and 6. College Gameday was there. The entire city was basically standing room only – forget actually trying to walk in the quad. The gameday attire (or lack thereof) was turned up like never before, and that’s saying something – I saw more body parts sticking from the places they’re typically kept covered than I have ever seen in my entire life.

When game time arrived at 2:30, the 101,821 people that were lucky enough to be inside the stadium had been given ample time for tailgating and general celebration of the occasion, which of course included the consumption of many things – both in liquid and solid form.

The game started happily. Alabama scored, the stadium was wild with excitement over such a fantastic match-up. I admit I wasn’t actually in my seat when the game began – we have hospitality tickets, so I was enjoying the food and drinks provided in the cushy indoor seating where you watch the game on TV, you’re not squished into the people on the right, left, north, and south of you, and the bathrooms are pristine.

I visited those pristine bathrooms when we arrived and noticed that the toilets were eterni-running. They had the flush that never ends, and moreover that was a bit too high in pressure so that they also doubled as a bidet.

Not great, but who am I to complain about overzealous toilets.

Right before we left the Stadium Club to head to our actual seats, I visited the little girl’s room one more time – just in case. This time, the bathroom was silent. Too silent, in fact. Gone was the eterni-flushing. Gone were any flushes. I wiggled the handle – not even a wave emanated from the bowl.

Huh. Weird day in the bathrooms.

Then I quickly moved on.

We got to our seats just in time to see a couple of exciting plays, and then there was….

…the announcement.

Attention: the stadium is currently experiencing water pressure issues. We are working to resolve the problems. Until that occurs, there will be no running water. Please do not use the facilities until further notice.

And then the game continued as if nothing catastrophic was afoot.

My mind quickly went into math mode.

101,821 fans.

32% were too drunk to hear the announcement.

Another 45% heard it, but were too filled with liquids to heed it.

10% were in the bathroom during the news and didn’t hear it.

100% of the stadium concessions were still selling fountain drinks.

28% of the people in the stadium smuggled in their own liquids.

And 100% of Rachel Callahans now had to pee since discovering that they weren’t allowed.

I tried to come to grips with my situation by turning to Twitter.

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Surely the issue would be quickly remedied. The population of the stadium alone was currently Alabama’s fifth largest city. Every state employee except Nick Saban was surely frantically working on this.

So I sat and watched the game, crossing my legs, suspiciously staring down each and every person who left their seats, wondering if they were on their way to worsening our situation.

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We headed back inside during halftime, severely disappointed that no follow-up announcement had been made. There were lines to the regular stadium bathrooms, so maybe we’d just missed the all clear?

That, or truly no one was heeding the gravity of the situation.

When we arrived at the Stadium Club, we were greeted with grave warnings that all of the bathrooms inside were off limits.

In fact, they were being guarded by a wall of workers. Martial Pooping Law had been enacted.

I decided that I’d had enough of the cramped quarters of the stadium, so I stayed in the club while Chris went back out to the game. Plus, I was hopeful that the bathrooms would be opened any minute. My personal situation was feeling more urgent.

But alas. The Palace Guard was not budging.

After a little while, I went back to the normal stadium bathrooms, thinking that the long lines from earlier had to be proof that they were once again working.

I walked in and headed to a stall. And gasped, then promptly choked on the air I had just inadvertently sucked in.

There was a pyramid constructed of moist toilet paper and who-knows-what-else…all the way up to the seat.

Noooooo.

I walked into another stall. The same sight greeted me.

Third, fourth, fifth stalls – the pyramid scheme was nonstop.

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I couldn’t do it. I turned and walked out. But then the urge was too great and so I turned around and got in the back of the now-formed line. Everyone that came out said “Oh my GOSH ladies it’s TERRIBLE in there.”

I got to the front of the line, looked in one stall, and once again backed out.

I just couldn’t.

10% out of sympathy for whoever the poor soul was that was going to have to DEAL with THAT, and 90% out of complete and utter terror from the contents therein and the closeness they would pose to my own body.

Uh uh. I would internally burst first, thankyouverymuch.

I trudged back up to the Stadium Club to wait it out. I sat down next to a friend and she leaned over and said, “Look what’s going on over there….there’s some sort of…LIQUID…dripping through the ceiling.”

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There was zero water running through the pipes of the stadium – I had just confirmed that fact by attempting to scrub the nast of the bathroom off of me – but the sink was bone dry. So the logical conclusion was that whatever that was coming through the ceiling did not originate from the pipes that carried clean water.

And it was dripping steadily into a room that was designed for…and full of…food.

We sat and watched it drip into the trashcans strategically yet subtly placed underneath it.

Needless to say, I lost my appetite for any further consumption, and my bladder insisted that I throw away the rest of my ice water (which, oddly, was still available and flowing from the drink machine.)

Meanwhile, I pondered gravity, and the downward motion of the liquids drip dripping away. And imagined the situation on the field itself.

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By the fourth quarter, the game was well in hand and my husband, being the type that likes to take mercy on his wife and beat the traffic, decided we should leave early. As we walked down the street by the Health-Hazard of a Stadium, there was a small river running in the gutter… even though our state is currently in a Level Three drought.

That there was not water.

That was the Brownish Yellow Tide.

Roll Tide, y’all. And pass the toilet paper.

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A Meandering Tale of Aliens, Lizards, and Art Appreciation.

Ali drew a picture of an alien.

It was a quite nice alien – friendly, geometric, and with wildly fascinating fingers.

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Yes, a perfectly fine alien.

She showed it to me that morning. I praised her delightful drawing and we moved on.

It became a long day, much in thanks to her little brother. Whining, arguing – the works. Thankfully, Ali was quite agreeable and obedient, as is her usual state, but Noah more than made up for that. By that afternoon, I needed a moment.

By myself.

With no little people anywhere nearby.

So I purposefully marched out to the front porch swing – my favorite place these days.

Two seconds later, two little people followed me out. I quickly shut that mess down.

“I need a 15 minute break. I need to be alone, I need it to be quiet, and I need you guys to go inside and let me have my break. I’ll be back inside in 15 minutes.”

“So I can’t stay out here?”, Noah asked in a whine.

“Definitely not.”

They both turned and went inside.

I breathed a long sigh and leaned my head back, enjoying the first calm moment of the day. Which lasted exactly five seconds. Until I heard the screaming from inside. And then crying. And then a lovely duet of crying.

My Mommy Justice Meter bubbled over.

Fifteen minutes! That’s all I asked for – FIFTEEN MINUTES. How hard is this?!

I stomped inside, where they were both standing, crying, barely in the door because that’s as far as they’d made it before everything went to handbasket.

“WHAT happened? WHY are you crying? WHY couldn’t you give me my fifteen minutes?!”

Noah: “She punched me right in the chest!!!”

Ali: “I’m so sorry! I don’t know what happened – I just lost my mind for a minute!!”

Well THIS is a turn of events.

Immediately I knew that something had precluded this rare mauling of her little brother, so my first response, biased though it may seem, was to ask Noah,

“What did you do to her??”

Noah: “I told her that her alien picture was dumb.”

Me, still in the selfish state of mind: “So now I have to think of consequences for two kids instead of my fifteen minute break. Go to your rooms.”

Ali, ever the people pleaser, felt terrible. “I’m so sorry for ruining your Mommy break!”

Poor kid.

It’s really one of those moments where you feel like the justified thing to do would be to praise her for all the times she actually didn’t punch her brother in the chest when he very much deserved it. I mean, if you don’t lose your cool and punch your little brother until the 4,001st time that you could have lost your cool and punched your little brother, shouldn’t you get a prize rather than a punishment?

But alas. That’s not the way the world works. And even if you’re 99.99% responsible, that .01% can be a booger.

So her consequences had to do with not getting to play with a friend later that evening, and she readily accepted it, her guilty conscience starved for something to assuage her self-loathing. We had our usual talk about forgiving yourself, and moved on.

The next day, I had a lunch date with a friend. Since the day before had been fairly rough, I extended my lunch date into a run by myself afterward. I needed quite a few moments of silence, after all – my 15 minutes of porch time had accrued interest. On my run, I spotted the most peaceful looking lizard, lying on his back as if she were sunning herself. Were it not for the puncture on the left side of her abdomen, I might’ve thought she really was just taking a beautiful day’s nap.

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I knew she deserved some major props for her pose. I kept running, but began thinking about what would fit her situation. I decided on one of those 1950’s sun-reflector things.

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So I re-routed, ran to Rite Aid, bought a pack of Juicy Fruit, and began my run back.

Except that when I got back to her location and opened my pack of gum, I discovered something horrendous: gum manufacturers have quit making silver wrappers! I hate gum so I had no idea they’d gone all paper – and this deception did not make me hate gum any less.

This ruined my entire plan. What could I do with paper wrappers?? Nothing!

I confessed my sad, sad failure via text to my roadkill friend, Tanya. I had failed. I had lost a point in our game. I was the worst.

But she wasn’t going to let me give up that easily. No, she exhorted me to use my brain. Take a minute and figure out what I could do with what I had, even though I’d been thwarted.

Her pushing me to strive forward kicked my brain into motion and I came up with a plan. I ran back to my car and grabbed a pen, then made a book out of the actual gum. Because why not.

I got her all set up just so, then took her picture.

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This work of art was titled “When the Reading gets Too Steamy.”

I ran off and left her, as an art installation, where I’d found her – in the entrance of the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. We don’t know how many patrons got to appreciate her beauty before she was scraped up and disposed of – or better yet until a predator enjoyed eating her and then having a refreshing Juicy Fruit chew afterward – but I do hope she was appreciated for the beauty that she was.

Of course, Tanya appreciated the work of art very much. But I also sent her to Chris,
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Who, in a rare out-of-character move, criticized my art.

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But we quickly got things worked out between us and found out it was a text misunderstanding.

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Oops.

But at least he acknowledged that he was no better than his son, and totally deserved a hard punch in the chest.