Oh, the humanity

When I became a mom, I expected the rush of motherly feelings: the urge to nurture, protect and kiss boo-boos all better.

I wasn’t expecting for some degree of these feelings to spill out toward other children.

If I see a little one who is not my own trip or cry or spill, my first reaction is to rush over, hug and fix. A lack of biological linkage doesn’t matter.

I’m feeling the same urge now, only this time the ones in need are New York and New Jersey.

You’ve all seen the news coverage — photo after photo, video after video, story after story of people who have lost their homes, clothes and cars to Hurricane Sandy. Some even lost loved ones.

I see the most pain in the eyes of parents who can’t keep their kids safe and warm anymore. Imagine being unable to supply even a pair of socks to a little one relying on you for everything.

Take that sympathy and go shopping, please. Stand in the store aisle and pretend you’re buying socks for your own child. She needs some underwear and gloves, too. A decent pair of pants for your son, maybe a winter hat for the cold that is surely coming?

Then take those things (and maybe some gently used but still-nice items from your own home) and donate to one of the great Pocono-area organizations that will take it to hurricane victims in need. See the list here.

Your donation doesn’t have to be expensive — just warm, functional and wrapped in love for the children of the world.

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The parenting cheat sheet

Friday’s Pocono Record parenting page features two of my favorite mothering cheats.
When parenting becomes just too much (and you know it happens to all of us — even Super-Übermom Gwyneth Paltrow), it’s always fabulous to have backups: in this case, books and grandparents.
Sometimes explaining a difficult subject (subliminal message: sex) to children can daunt even the most you-can-talk-to-me-about-anything parent. So whip out the library card and let an author do it. Just make sure it’s a good author. That’s where today’s parenting columns come in.
Death can be one of the most complicated, heartbreaking topics to discuss with children in the throes of losing a beloved. Watching someone deteriorate from Alzheimer’s can be even more confusing to a young one witnessing a slow, painful death. Check this “Parent to Parent” column for excellent suggestions of books that children can understand.
The “Books to Borrow, Books to Buy” column addresses the lasting value of relationships between grandchildren and grandparents. Presented in child-sized rhyme and story lines, this tragic loss can make more sense. Not perfect sense, but more.
Which brings me to my other favorite parenting cheat: Grandparents. It’s always such a relief to have a babysitter who would do anything to love and protect your child. And who, every now and then, gives the kids Froot Loops for dinner (because you’d get booted out of Gwyneth’s Organic Soy Only Club if you did).
Appreciate those grands while you’ve got them. They are a gift you don’t get to keep.

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What’s really for dinner tonight

First, a public service announcement. I always forget when trick-or-treat times are in my municipality, no matter how long I’ve lived there. So here’s what you need to know for Halloween night, Monroe County parents:
5 to 7 p.m.: Ross Township
5 to 8 p.m.: Eldred, Jackson, Middle Smithfield, Pocono and Polk townships
6 to 8 p.m.: Barrett, Chestnuthill, Coolbaugh, Hamilton, Paradise, Price, Smithfield, Stroud, Tobyhanna and Tunkhannock townships and Delaware Water Gap, East Stroudsburg, Stroudsburg and Mount Pocono boroughs.

(UPDATE: Hurricane Sandy has damaged a lot, including Halloween. If your kids are less concerned about storm damage and more worried about trick-or-treating, here is an update from the Pocono Record: Trick-or-treating in Stroudsburg borough has been postponed until Saturday, Nov. 3, from 3 to 5 p.m. The Pocono Record surveyed several other localities on Tuesday and all said they would be keeping intact their Halloween trick-or-treating hours. Best to check with your municipality for the latest.)

That’s hours of walking, walking, walking around. Standing and smiling. Saying, “No, you can’t eat that yet. We have to check the candy first.” But you KNOW you’re going to eat some of that deliciousness tonight, right? After all, you burned a few calories with all that walking, standing, smiling and lecturing.

Sorry, but I’m here to burst your bubble gum.

If you break down your favorite candy into how long it would take you to work off the calories by trick-or-treating, you’re in for a sour surprise.

One roll of Smarties takes 8.5 minutes of trick-or-treating to burn. (And that’s NOT at toddler speed — that’s we-have-to-fill-this-pillowcase-with-free-candy tweener speed.)
Snickers Miniatures and Kit Kat Snack Size: 14.5 minutes each
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Kisses: 8.5 minutes
Starburst Original Fruit Chews: 7 minutes
Strawberry Twizzlers Twists: 10 minutes
Dum Dums lollipops: 7 minutes
And the worst (because they are my favorite, of course): Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Miniatures clock in at 15 minutes per tiny-yet-delectable piece.

Hope that didn’t scare your too-tight pants off.

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Tricking the treats away from your kids

Lots of good ideas in this story for how to dispose of or reuse excess Halloween candy (except we forgot the best one: Eat it yourself after the kids are in bed). But there is a first hurdle that hasn’t been mentioned: How do you get the sweets out of your children’s grubby, costumed hands in the first place?

Enter the Switch Witch.

She’s part Tooth Fairy, part Santa, part dentist’s friend.

On Halloween night, after the little monsters have returned home and spilled their new booty on the living room floor, let them count out a few pieces, an arbitrary number that seems good to you — 10? 20? — and bag the rest. Set the bag in a special place (we use the dining room table in our house). Bright and early on Nov. 1, the kids will find the Switch Witch has visited overnight, taking the candy and leaving a toy or other non-sweet treat.
Easy, and it avoids a tug-of-war over that plastic pumpkin overly full of unhealthy goodies.

I first heard of the Switch Witch from a West Coast online friend a couple of years ago, but Miss Witch doesn’t seem to ride her broom to this part of the country too often. She’s been a welcome annual guest at our house ever since, and thoughtfully brings all the candy she collects to the Pocono Record newsroom. She knows that hungry reporters will eat anything.

If you have an idea or tradition for dealing with Halloween excess that you’d like to share with readers, send it to ahiggins@poconorecord.com with “Halloween” in the subject line.

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