For the third year running, the Goobies and I trick-or-treated without you. It all started a couple years ago when you kissed us goodbye and flew far away to say your last goodbyes to your grandpa. We missed you, but it was easy to forgive your absence that year. But the following year, our excitement to have you home with us was short lived: Vertigo stole you from us early Halloween morning (remember?) and didn’t return you back to us until well into the night. The timing of your illness surprised and irritated me and I found it difficult to play the sympathetic wife in the midst of my own disappointment, and I vowed to keep my expectations for future Halloweens low from then on.
Easier said than done, of course.
In hindsight, I realize I made myself an empty promise because why wouldn’t I expect you to spend Halloween with us? In the days leading up to Halloween this year, you doted on the Goobies, going above and beyond (ahem, spoiling them) with costumes this year in a subconscious attempt to make up for your absence the past two years, I think, and all the while I was bracing for the blow that hadn’t even come. Until then, out of nowhere, it did: urgent surgeries had been scheduled for Halloween night. It wasn’t your fault, of course, but my disappointment made me want to blame you. Can’t you get out of it? I begged. This is the third year in a row. Your hands were tied, there was nothing you could do, and so I excused myself from the conversation, shut myself in the bathroom, and cried.
As the tears fell, I realized I wasn’t really mad at you. I was upset about the situation and confused by your seemingly cool attitude toward it. You didn’t seem nearly as ticked off as I felt, and that bothered me. But oh, those Goobies. They are defenders and copycats, a dangerous combination when adversity tempts me toward a bad attitude. But I was quick to remember that if I continued to slink around with a chip on my shoulder, they would do the same. I didn’t want them to be angry with you. Disappointment is part of life. People will let us down, but what we do with that disappointment matters most. After a moment or two, I wiped my eyes and shook off the crazy, resolved to make the best of it.
All of this reminded me of a story Sally Clarkson tells about how her husband’s work took him away from their young family more often than she appreciated. An otherwise doting and involved father, his career took a turn that demanded a bit more time and effort than anyone at home really enjoyed. One night in particular, Sally was particularly not happy about having to say goodbye, but she knew showcasing a bad attitude about the ordeal would give resentment a foothold–not only in her heart, but in her kids’ hearts too. So instead, she chose to send off her husband with waves and smiles from happy kids, then wrapped her arms around her brood after he drove away, suggesting with a smile they go inside for cheeseburgers and a movie. She chose not to let disappointment dictate her behavior. I realized, I ought to do the same.
In the days leading up to Halloween, all I could see was my own disappointment. Your disappointment didn’t occur to me until that moment. You were the one who had to miss the fun stuff: attending funerals, dealing with illness, and working late into the night are not fun, and they aren’t the same as skipping out on your family. Hard things forced your hand, and you never once complained about missing out on the fun part of Halloween. My moping around and holding a grudge didn’t make any of it easier on you; if anything, it made it more difficult– not only for you, but for all of us. And so, I decided to be more like Sally: I dressed up the family table and scattered candy corn this way and that, and I served corn dogs and chex mix and traipsed around the court, knocking on doors and collecting candy and trinkets until well after dark. I made the most out of the evening anyway instead of sulking my way through the night, choosing joy in all circumstances, like you.
We missed you, of course, but we still had fun. Friends and grandparents joined us as we bounded out the door toward an evening of fun–all because, well, what good does it do to sulk? Life’s let downs aren’t easy to face, but it is possible to adapt amid disappointments. We just have to choose to do so, which admittedly, isn’t easy or immediate, but it is always worth it. When you finally made it home to rest late that night, you flicked through the pictures on my phone and laughed out loud, heart bursting to see your Goobies smiling.
Classic Party Mix (GF/DF/NF option)
In our house, Chex Mix in October is like cookies in December: you can’t have one without the other. The warm, savory scent of this stuff crisping up in the oven plunges me right back into the Octobers of my high school years when I first started making it on my own. I must have learned how to do it from my dear friend Molly’s dad (thanks Allan!), although I don’t remember him ever showing me how. But I do remember him making it every year without fail, a tradition both Molly and I have embraced as our own, in our own ways. Clearly, our family makes it both gluten and dairy free, but believe me when I tell you you cannot taste a difference. This version is every bit as fantastic as its gluten-and-dairy laden cousin. Also: please note that there ARE cashews in the pictures above. As of that night, our kids weren’t allergic to cashews. They have since developed an allergy to them, so we don’t make it this way anymore. Instead, we stick to almonds (because they can all eat those), or we just leave them out and toss in plain cheerios instead. It always turns out fantastic! Chex Mix is an effortlessly customizable treat, food allergy flexibility at its finest.
Note: If you want to use wheat Chex in addition to rice and corn, use 3 cups each rice, corn and wheat, for a total of 9 cups of Chex cereal.
- 9 cups Chex cereal (divide evenly among the types of Chex your family tolerates. Can’t have wheat or corn? Same. Use all rice!)
- 2 cups gluten free pretzels (Snyder’s is our fave!)
- 1 cup almonds, or mixed nuts (or omit altogether if your family is allergic to them and toss in something like plain Cheerios–no big deal!)
- 7 Tablespoons Soy Free Earth Balance (or other vegan buttery spread), melted
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (make sure it’s gluten free! We like Lea & Perrins)
- 1 3/4 teaspoons seasoned salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 teaspoon onion powder
First, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Next, in a large bowl, mix together the cereal, pretzels and mixed nuts. In a separate small bowl, mix together the Earth Balance, Worcestershire sauce, seasoned salt, garlic powder and onion powder. Drizzle the seasoned sauce over the dry ingredients. Using your hands, toss the mixture well until evenly coated. Pour onto a cookie sheet and bake, stirring every 15 minutes, for a total of an hour. Pour the mixture onto a big paper grocery bag (that’s been cut open, as shown below) and let it cool. (The mix gets crunchier as it cools.)
This is what a double batch looks like, about 24 cups worth. A single batch (as written above) yields about 12 cups.