ChitChat: Your best Halloween ever

When I was a kid, my mom always handmade Halloween costumes for me and my brothers. Whether it was a lady bug, Peter Pan, or an angel, she worked her ass off those days leading up to Halloween to make awesome costumes for us. Now that I’m an adult, I realize what a huge undertaking that was. That’s pretty awesome.

These days I don’t dress up much for Halloween. It’s not that I don’t like the holiday (I do!), it’s more that I’m too cheap to spend money on that sort of thing. But, when I need to, I can rise to the occasion. And convince my husband to do the same (party on, Wayne).


So for this month’s ChitChat Panel, we’re talking Halloween costumes and favorite trick or treating memories. 🙂



Aubrey: As a kid, Halloween was my favorite holiday. I suppose I liked it so much because it was a day in which outrageous and infelicitous behavior was generally encouraged – well, except at school. From Catholic grade school to high school, I was reprimanded and punished for costumes year after year. As Elvira in the third grade, I had to cover up my cleavage. When I was a baby in the 5th grade, the principal made me put pants over my diaper. When I dressed as my 10th grade Lit teacher (he had long gray hair and wore silver bracelets up to his elbow), the dean made me take everything off and gave me Saturday detention. As Pee-Wee Herman in the 11th grade, they tore up my “Keep Pulling for Me!” sign. I just couldn’t win.

Although I have a lot of great memories associated with various costumes, my favorite has to be the one I wore last year, because I got to introduce my daughter to Halloween. My wife dressed as Olive Oil, my daughter as Sweet Pea, and I was Popeye (see bottom of post). Now that I’m a little older, I’ve stopped trying to challenge institutions so much. I suppose I’ll have to leave that to my daughter someday.


Graham: I have a few personal favorites but for this particular question I wanted to choose a costume from my childhood, when the eerie mystique of Halloween was still very much intact, and so I decided to defer to my mom, Melissa, my official (and officially retired) Halloween seamstress-extraordinaire. Her favorite costume of mine, which to this day she reiterates every year in a suggestive tone, was Alfalfa from the Little Rascals (pictured at the bottom of post).

I don’t think I enjoyed the Alfalfa costume much at the time, but over the years I’ve come to love it for for being simple, comfortable, and yet distinctive, which is why I think my mother liked it to begin with. In fact, I appreciate it enough that I’ve recycled it since then. And even though Halloween these days has less eerie mystique than let’s-get-drunk-and-rub-up-against-each-other-ness, I still think this costume is just too good to overlook.

Chelley panel

Chelley: My favorite Halloween costume was from high school. It is my favorite because it paved the way to who I would be as an adult.

As it were, a few friends called and wanted to go trick-or-treating. There was a Madonna, a police officer, a punk, a “sassy” cheerleader… but what would I be? I knew my friends wanted rides, so I put on jeans, my lacrosse jacket and donned my least fashionable sneakers and picked them up.

I was a soccer mom for Halloween.

As a mom now, I laugh about my off-the-cuff idea. Here I was, slightly distracted by everything else I needed to do for the week, shuttling around a bunch of kids who were hopped up on sugar. A glimpse.

I don’t love the costume for it’s creativity, but I love it for the symbolic aspect. I am, 13 years later, shuttling kids, worried about everything I have to get done… and loving every moment.


Elizabeth: Growing up with Canadian Halloweens, I have a lot of memories of wading through snow as I trick or treated, so that was a large consideration when it came to costume ideas. It had to be something that a snowsuit could fit under – Princess Jasmine was not gonna happen. My mom made matching clown costumes for me and my sister that I loved! Being the same thing as my big sister was THE coolest thing I could be for Halloween.

The neighborhood fathers would take us out while the moms handed out candy. Growing up I had best friends who lived just up the street from us and so every Halloween the three of us and our dads would go out and fill our pillowcases full of candy. When we were really young my best friends’ father died. So the next Halloween my dad took the three of us around the neighborhood, holding three pillowcases ready to switch with us when ours got full. It’s such a small memory, but I always think of it as such a great example of my dad’s character. It wasn’t even a question that he would take my friends out that year, it was his instinct to be there for someone who needed him.

Mike (not pictured): Halloween is arguably my favorite holiday, and I’ve had a few nice costumes over the years. I think my favorite so far is the costume i will be wearing this year. I’ll be Gene from Bob’s Burgers. I have a burger, his trademark yellow tee and jean shorts, and a pair of red Chuck Taylors. I am so like the character so this is gonna be a fun one!


Nancy: My favorite costume was a glow in the dark skeleton costume. I think I liked it because it because all you could see were the bones as we walked down the road. That costume stayed in my parents attic and was actually worn by one of my own kids. I am not sure, but I think the year that I wore it was the rainy Halloween. I had a big shopping bag and must have been dragging it on the ground, because when it was full and we were almost home, it broke and all the candy spilled.

My favorite memory of my kids is when my two boys, about 2 and 3 years old dressed liked clowns. They were so cute, but I didn’t connect that one of my sons was afraid of clowns and thus afraid of his brother.

Popeye (1)


ChitChat: What’s the last great book you read?

All right, all right. Last month, I introduced a new feature called ChitChat. Here’s how it works: Each month I’ll ask a panel of people a question. And they answer it. It’s pretty simple. 🙂

Anyway, this month’s question is: What was the last great book you read?

I am known to devour books in two or three sittings so I am always on the lookout for a great book. The panel did not disappoint.

Moira panel

Moira: The last book that I read and really enjoyed was The Likeness by Tana French. It’s the second book in the Dublin Murder Squad series, each book featuring a different detective from the squad. The Likeness is the story of Detective Cassie Maddox, who is a main character in the first book in the series, In the Woods. Maddox is no longer on the murder squad, but goes undercover after a body is found and the victim looks exactly like Maddox. Not only does she look like Maddox, the victim is also using an alias that had been created for Maddox when she was an undercover cop. Maddox assumes the identity of the victim, and lives her life to find her killer.

While I did like the first book in the series, In the Woods, I was riveted by The Likeness. I was unable to put it down and stayed up late to finish it. French is a great character writer, her characters are strange and different, like no one you have ever met, yet you are easily able to imagine them being real.  Her mysteries make you think and wonder and up until the end you still aren’t sure what exactly happened.  French writes with depth and has mastered the psychological mystery. While it is not necessary to read the first in the series before reading this book, I would recommend it as it gives insight into Maddox’s character and situation. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series!


Hartley: ​I recently devoured The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt​ while on a sailing trip around the Greek islands. The protagonist Theo Decker’s adventures kept me glued to my book even as we saw the most beautiful sights — I was so antisocial while I was reading it! (Apologies to my husband.) I would highly recommend the Pulitzer-prize winning book to anyone who doesn’t get intimidated by 700+ pages and enjoys the occasional esoteric discussion of antique wooden furniture, Ukrainian slang, and New York City’s WASP-y upper class. (God, I’m making this book sound miserable already. Just promise me you’ll read it before you see the movie*.)

*Runner up goes to: This is Where I Leave You, by Jonathan Tropper, and is currently in theaters.


Aubrey: I’m in school pursuing a joint degree in clinical psychology and law, so I currently don’t get to do much reading for pleasure. However, I did read The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court over the summer, and it was one hell of an entertaining read. In his book, Jeffrey Toobin covers the Supreme Court from the late 1990s to the mid 2000s. He is able to pierce through the veil under which the Court so often shrouds itself to reveal a world of oddball personalities and high stakes political wrangling. Through interviews from a variety of sources,Toobin fashions a life story for this set of real characters that helps explain each member’s worldview and decision making process. He crafts a tale in which the Court’s more moderate voices eventually drown out those drawn to political extremism and legal formalism. It provides some hope that the Washington of today will eventually give way to a political temperament attracted to workable solutions.

I understand that Supreme Court jurisprudence isn’t everyone’s bag, but if you have an interest in learning more about major legal decisions that have had a direct impact on the Country, then I suggest this entertaining and often funny (yes, funny) journalistic accomplishment. Trust me, reading about constitutional law can often make you wish you were carrying a loaded gun. The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court feels like a pleasure read that you can take to bed or absorb while sipping your favorite spirit.


Mary: I recently finished Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and it blew me away. It’s the story of twins, born co-joined and out of wedlock in Addis Ababa, sons of an Indian Catholic nun who is a nurse and an English surgeon, both essentially missionaries in Africa.  The story grabbed me immediately, told in the voice of one of the twins, and kept me hanging until the last word, and then I was sorry it was over. The characters were amazingly well-developed, the descriptions of Ethiopia and its politics and lifestyle from WWII on to present day were mesmerizing.  It was one of the best written novels I’ve read in a long time and it has stayed with me ever since.  I also took it out of the library in audio book form to “re-read” and the narration was one of the best I’ve heard. Highly, highly recommended if you are looking to learn about medicine and surgery, African politics and lifestyles, a great story of love, and sorrow, and triumph. Read it, read it, read it!

Chelley panel

Chelley: The last great book I read gave me even more insight to different types of dwarfism and the controversial medical practice of limb lengthening. The book Dwarf by Tiffanie DiDonato is a memoir of pain and suffering, life and overcoming obstacles. While the story pained me at times, I am honored to know the author and to know that she, most importantly, is happy with her decision to alter her body. I suggest this read to parents… it’s a great story about making decisions with our children, and how we are strong enough to support them, even in the hardest of times. (Check out a great blog post about Dwarf on Chelley’s blog,


Elizabeth: The last book that I have read that really wow’d me was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. There were so many twists and turns that I wound up staying up for two days just to finish it! It’s about a man and his wife disappears on their 5th wedding anniversary. It is hard to explain more without giving it away. It is about to be released as a movie with Ben Affleck! I really recommend it if you like suspense and thrillers!

I hope these recommendations gave you some new books to add to your list! I can personally vouch for Gone Girl, Cutting for Stone, and The Goldfinch. All wonderful books in their own way. Now tell me, what is the last great book YOU read? You can’t take ideas from this list without sharing with the rest of us! 🙂


ChitChat: First Day of School

My strongest memories of the first day of school are also my oldest memories. I was the youngest in my family, so I grew up watching all my big brothers go off to school and I couldn’t wait for the day when I could join them. I remember when I was going into first grade my mom had taken us shopping for new school clothes. My brothers, appropriately, got new Umbros and t-shirts. I, on the other hand, got a wool Minnie Mouse sweater with matching pink and purple polkadot leggings (pictured above). I was SO excited to wear that outfit that I insisted on wearing it on the first day despite the fact that it was early September and still very warm out. My mom relented and I wore it and I was so hot all day, but at the same time, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so cool again in my life.

So, today I’m introducing a new featured called ChitChat. Each month I’ll ask a panel of people one simple question and they’ll share their thoughts, memories, and opinions. This month I asked, “What memories do you think of when you hear ‘first day of school?'” (Check out some of their back to school pictures at the end!)
Chelley panel
Chelley: First day of school means so many things for me. I think I’ve forgotten exactly how I felt about it  in high school because it was just the day when two-a-days stopped, and field hockey practice  moved to once a day after school. But as a child… it elicits such joy and anticipation. Wanting  to hold my father’s hand and let it go simultaneously. I know I would walk away from him, and,  though I think he didn’t ever see it, I would look out the window and watch him go- his suit  jacket unbuttoned and his boots lightly dragging on the pavement from the preschool building  to the mail building of Meadowbrook School.
I can remember how cool I felt taking the bus (even though my parents were totally following in  their car), and the sound of a brand new zipper opening and closing. The smell of plastic from a pencil case. New markers and glue sticks and freshly printed name tags on our desks. Presenting book reports, using highlighters I didn’t need (yet) and getting the classroom job of clapping the erasers. The first day of school held such promise for the year… and I still have that anticipation. As I move into filling out paperwork for kindergarten for my own child, I smile at the school shopping, LL Bean monogrammed backpacks, choosing the first day outfit… and cringe at the thought of letting her hand go from my own.
(Read more of Chelley’s writing at

Mary: September, 1957, first day of first grade, walked to school with 2 big brothers and then left alone in a classroom of 75 children and one scary nun.  I knew my friends Helen and Frank who lived on my street, so that was good, but the class was so big I hardy knew how to find them.

One girl was crying and wouldn’t/couldn’t stop in spite of being ordered to by the teacher, who was becoming more and more annoyed (I thought I saw smoke come out of her wimple, although I didn’t know it was a wimple at the time) and the kids were growing more and more nervous until–suddenly–crying girl made a run for it!  Off she ran, out of the room toward the back stairway to freedom!  Off ran the good Sister, furious that she had already lost control.  Seventy four 6 year olds sitting with hands folded on their desks, hoping Sister wouldn’t return, but alas, return she did, with crooked wimple, beet red face, exclaiming “The little brat kicked me!”  Yikes!  At least that’s how I remember my first day of school. (P.S.–The “little brat” spent first grade in public school)


Steve: I would rate my feelings toward the first day of school as neutral, leaning towards negative.  It was the best school day of the year other than maybe the last day, or maybe the day before Christmas break, or some random day like Acceptance Day or Purple Gold Day.  It was the end of summer, which was heartbreaking, but you couldn’t help but be excited for the first day.  What will your new teachers be like? What will the girls look like?  You got brand new clothes for at least the first three days and the workload will be light.  The first day of school is great.

But, sadly, the first day of school passes, and soon it’s like you never left.  As a kid I unfortunately regarded school as a punishment rather than the gift that it was.  But I still don’t see how you’re going to convince a 9-13 year-old otherwise (that’s the age group I’m thinking of because the summers before you were expected to have a job were the best).  When you spend your summers out in the woods biking, fishing, rope-swinging, catching frogs, vacations down the shore boogie boarding, eating ice cream, catching crabs, and suddenly you’re stuffed in a classroom and forced to learn…I think I’ve explained enough why my feelings lean toward negative.

Colleen Panel

 Colleen: Believe it or not I’m pretty sure the only “first day” of school I can actually remember might have been my first day of school ever. I have a vague memory of being upset because my mom left, and a boy came over and showed me a book to help make me feel better, and it worked. I honestly think I might have been 3 years old, so I guess it really goes to show a little kindness goes a long way!

Moira panel

Moira: Dread!! Actually I don’t know if that is how I felt back when I was in school, but that is how my 35 year old self feels when I think about the first day of school. I also have memories of being really excited, mixed in with a lot of nervousness. What classes will I have? Who will my teachers be? Will my friends be in my classes? What should I wear the first day? Those feelings definitely continued into college, and nursing school later on in life. I think the first day of school is daunting no matter your age.
Leslie panel
Leslie: Since I was a single parent, a good bit of the memories were dropping my son off before school, not about the school itself. I just remember looking forward to and having fun doing the back to school shopping once we got the list. We would head to the store and just buy everything. I was proud to be in line. I always found it a fun time to be together and made me feel that this was really one small part of the joys of being a mom. My son probably hated it. It was sad to me when he got old enough to go himself and with his friends.  But of course that needed to happen.

And a personal funny memory of a first day of school – one of our neighbors had an exchange student from Spain.  However, just before school started the neighbor went into the hospital and needed emergency surgery.  So, I had to be become the exchange student’s “parent” for a few days. This included the first day of school and helping the student to ride the school bus. I took my newfound temporary responsibility very seriously. So, after the high school student boarded the bus I actually followed the bus to the school to make sure he was okay, hoping not to be seen, the whole time laughing to myself.

Theresa (not pictured): One of my sons wasn’t thrilled about going to school. When he came home on his first day of school, I told him I bet he had fun and that I missed him. He didn’t even answer me. On the morning of the second day of school he told me “Mom, I won’t go to school…. You’ll miss me too much and I’ll worry about you.”


Hartley: I had to call my mom regarding this. My memories are mostly me being nervous, but she recalls me being excited — I always liked school. However, she agreed with my recollection of being nervous for college.  I must have blocked this out, but the first college I attended was in the middle of Massachusetts, and it was really close to where my aunt, uncle, and their kids live, so my mom planned on my family staying there the night before move-in day. But apparently I was so nervous I made us stay at a hotel down the street from their house so I could, I don’t know, lay my clothes out the night before and be assured that no little kids messed with them? Like I said, I must have blocked it out. Too nervous.

What are your memories from the first day of school? Any good stories your kids brought home? Let’s talk! PS. Check out some first day of school pictures below!

Chelley and her dad on the first day of school

Chelley on the first day of school

Moira and her sister on the first day of school

Moira & her sister on the first day of school


Hartley on the first day of second grade

Hartley on the first day of second grade


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