What’s more frightening than ghosts? Static electricity

Girl with hair standing on end because of static electricity while touching a vandergraf generator. science, electricity, static, vandergraf generator, hair, girl, surprise, excitement, fear, funWhen I was a kid I had a book called Mysteries of the Unexplained that contained AMAZING BUT TRUE! stories aimed at stirring the imagination, eliciting a sense of wonder and prolonging the bed-wetting experience by at least three years. I’d huddle beneath the covers with my flashlight and read about strange psychic phenomena documented by real scientists, physicists, private investigators and the occasional freaked-out paranormal expert who, at the end of the story, usually abandoned his profession to become a plumber:

Though the book was mostly about ghosts, aliens, strange disappearances and creepy folklore (…so stand alone in the dark, if you dare. Hold a mirror and repeat the words “Sassafras Sally” And prepare to be slapped by a pair of wet tea bags), it was spontaneous human combustion that really got to me. I think it’s because, in my mind, ghosts, aliens, strange disappearance and folklore could all be avoided by exercising a little caution.

Spot an alien spaceship? Run.

Worried about Sassafras Sally? Introduce her to Chi tea.

Concerned about taking a cruise through the Bermuda Triangle?

Go to Disneyland and settle for the “Pirates of the Caribbean” instead.

But burst into flames in the middle of Mrs. Frump’s sixth-grade classroom, and chances are you’d be reduced to a pair of smoking sneakers long before you could acquire a hall pass and make it to a water source.  Continue reading

Emotionally scarring your children is the Halloween ‘circle of life’

imageThough it’s been 15 years, I still remember my youngest son’s first Halloween costume. Because he was too young to walk, the choices were limited to things that could be carried under one arm and then planted on the doorstep. Eventually, I narrowed the options down to the following:

A pumpkin.
A legless pirate.
A meteor.

When considering the merits of each costume option and which elements should be incorporated into them, parents really have only one consideration:

“How do I get the most candy out of my child?”

To me, the sympathy factor for the legless pirate made it a no-brainer. However, I couldn’t overlook the power of cuteness — a quality that was missing from the legless pirate and meteor concepts. I eventually settled on “The Pumpkin, which I’m sad to say, fell short of my candy-yield expectations for that year.

To make matters worse, that was also the year my oldest daughter became an active member of Young Advocates for Keeping Kandy (YAKK).  Continue reading

No pumpkin-carving experience is complete without a near-fatal knife wound

image Carving a jack-o-lantern used to require little more than a pumpkin, an oversized kitchen knife, and a tourniquet. It was a simple matter of plunging a 10-inch French knife into the gourd of your choice and creating a triangle-eyed, square-toothed masterpiece of horror. In those days, the trickiest thing about making your jack-o-lantern was deciding on how to light the candle.

Option one: Light candle, then attempt to lower it into the pumpkin without catching your sleeve on fire.

Option two: Put the candle inside the pumpkin first, then attempt to light it without catching your sleeve on fire.

Option three: Accept the inevitable and just light your sleeve on fire, then go find a candle.

After a quick trip to the emergency room for stitches and some light skin grafting, you could return home and set your jack-o-lantern on the porch, where it would remain until gravity and molecular breakdown eventually caused it to collapse in on itself like the birth of a new star — appropriately enough, usually around Christmas time. Continue reading

Today’s Halloween costume is tomorrow’s therapy session

They may not look traumatized now, but I’m saving up for my children’s therapy sessions anyway — just in case.

It was a conversation that I had been putting off for as long as possible, even though I knew it was my responsibility as a parent to sit down and have “The Talk” with my daughter.

It’s better that it come from me rather than her getting crazy ideas from someone at school, I told myself.

So I sat my daughter down, held my breath for a moment, then and asked:

“What do you want to be for Halloween?”

For some of you, this is an exciting time that allows you to bond with your child by making their Halloween-costume dream come true.

For the rest of us, it’s a time when we cross our fingers and pray that our child’s “Halloween costume dream” is hanging on a rack somewhere at Wal-Mart. Because if it isn’t, we’ll have to make something, and therefore put our child’s emotional health at risk by creating a costume that could potentially scar them for life. Continue reading