The Day After

So your kids have gorged out on Hallowe’en excess, what a Mexican grandmother friend once described to me passionately as “horror!”  You may have too, sneaking in some extra junk when the kids weren’t looking.  The thing is, there are still piles more of it in your house, especially if you over-estimated how much to buy for your own household to give.  What’s a sugar-crazed post-Hallow’s Night family to do?

Here’s where the Switch Witch can fly in, if you choose.  She’s been known as the Candy Fairy around these parts, although I prefer the rhyming moniker better now that I’ve heard of it (but it’s kind of too late).  Whatever you call her, this ethereal creature can swoop into your lives and save you from your sugar high selves.  Summon her, and in exchange for some quantity of candy mass, she will proffer a toy, book, or other coveted item.

In our house, these items have been books.  If a child trades half of his candy, the Candy Fairy will gift him one book; if he trades a half of the half left, he’ll get a second book; if he trades another half still, he’ll get a third book.  Theoretically, this could go on, but we’ve never gotten beyond the third trade.  I was more than delighted with this last year, as by then, both of my (trick or treat age) kids had no more than 10-15 small pieces of candy each.  Six quality books were ushered into our lives by Amazon the Candy Fairy, and all was well in the world.

I started this with my kids when they were young; my hunch is that, as with almost any good habit, it’s better to start early than late.  However, it’s never too late to begin, and it’s always wise to keep an eye to changing the rules if necessary.  For if, like someone’s hypothetical six year old son, your child declares “I’m not trading any of my candy.  Fine, I won’t get a book!”, you might have to up the ante on the Candy Fairy, and she might have to work a little harder to get her sugar fix.

I’m not deterred though.  I’ll find a way to rid ourselves of some of the Hallowe’en hyperglycemic horror, because all that poundage just can’t stay.  Come hither, Candy Fairy, there is work to be done.

Candy Everybody Wants, or Doesn’t

Like most kids, my kids bring home more candy from trick-or-treating than they can possibly eat. In the past, I’ve struggled with how to handle this problem, since half of me thinks Hallowe’en is just wasteful and a huge boring mess, and the other half of me really dislikes Hallowe’en. I realize that, while I am not unique in my disdain of Hallowe’en, most people think dressing up and asking total strangers for more sugar than is reasonable to consume in a lifetime (and then doing it again the next year!) is fun, wow. Included among that group are my children, and so I play nice for their benefit.

A few years ago we realized that the boys got far too much candy and that we needed to do something about it. They collected so much that they couldn’t eat it all. Ever. Even the youngest, who could eat candy all day if we let him, was hard pressed to finish all of it by Christmas, and we usually just threw  out what was left. Still, they’d collected it, it was theirs, and it seemed unfair to just take it away (Ok, it wasn’t unfair.  We just didn’t want to listen to them howl).  We decided that we’d make it worth their while to give it up. We’d buy it off of them.

As it turns out, cold hard cash is more appealing than chocolate so every Hallowe’en the loot gets dumped on the living room floor, inspected,  and sorted into piles as follows:

  • candy you like and want to keep
  • candy you like but not that much
  • candy you hate and that your brother and parents hate, too
  • candy you hate but someone else likes
  • chips
  • sour candies (of which 50% are to be handed over to Mom because ain’t nobody happy if mama ain’t happy, and this helps)

Candy in the “like” pile is kept by the recipient. Candy that you hate but someone else likes gets traded or given away to another member of the family. Chips go into a big basket on the dining room table, because everyone likes those. I take my gummies with glee and promptly hide them. The rest gets counted out, and we pay a nickel a piece to haul it away. I usually take the discards to work, where I leave them in the lunch room, free for the taking.

It isn’t huge money that we’re handing out, and dental fillings cost more than their combined weight in candy measured at five cents a piece, so I figure we’re still ahead. I’m not entirely sure what parenting message we’re sending by buying it from them; I’m sure we’d be truer to our values if we just let them visit the houses on our block so that they didn’t end up with so much, but that would also be much less memorable, and as far as teachable moments go, I figure that Hallowe’en doesn’t have to be one of them.

P.S. Looking for something Hallowe’en related to do with your family this weekend? Tynan Studios is holding its third annual Click or Treat! fundraiser supporting the Daily Bread Food Bank this Sunday between 9 and 3 at Royal St. George’s College campus, located at 12o Howland Avenue, Toronto.  Receive a free 4×6 of your little trick-or-treater for every bag of non-perishable food items you donate. Further details can be found on Tynan Studio’s website . Happy Hallowe’en!

Fake Danger vs Real Danger

My Halloween pet peeve?  I’m going to echo Beth-Anne here, and say folks who gripe about having to take extra care because of kids with food allergies. 

Tell me if I’m on the right track with this:  most of you would notice and be alarmed if your kids’ Halloween candy wrappers appeared tampered with, right?  You have an actual hairs-up-on-the-back-of-the-neck reaction just thinking about it.  And you do think about it, right?  We have individually-wrapped everything because of the fear that some crazy will lace candy with cyanide.   Most of us also know that poisoned candy is an urban myth.  (See Snopes for more.)  But, but, but WHAT IF?  And the fear of the infinitesimally small chance that someone has gone postal keeps us filling up landfills with millions of wrappers.  The effect on the environment is real.  The threat of poisoning?  Not so much.

There is, however, a very good chance that a child in your neighbourhood will have an allergic reaction to something in his or her Halloween bag this year, and this is a very good reason to make sure that nutty treats stay in their landfill-filling wrappers.  It is also a very good reason to buy nut-free treats.  Why should the rest of the world adjust because of allergic kids?  Because, unlike the threat of cyanide, their illness is real

It has been estimated that 3% to 4% of Canadians representing approximately 1.3 million people have a food allergy (Source: Health Canada).  These statistics are similar to recent U.S. data, which suggest that nearly 4% of the US population, or 1 in 25 Americans, is at risk for food allergy alone, a rate much higher than noted in the past.

from Anaphylaxis Canada

I know it’s a pain; I know it’s not fair; I know how much you love peanuts.  I do too.  But to underplay the danger of allergens, as people regularly do at this time of year, really does not serve the community well.  Yes, there is only a very a small chance that a child will actually die from eating a nut this year, but the less dire outcomes of hives, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing and trips to the ER are still too high a price to pay for carelessness. 

I don’t expect my neighbours to provide nut-free treats at the door at Halloween.  Vetting the loot bag and tossing the dangerous stuff is part of our Halloween routine.  Those of us with kids with allergies will find fun stuff for our kids to trade for.  Just please don’t make us listen to you gripe about groundless hysteria.  It’s real for us, and it’s real for 1 out of 25 kids who will come to your door.

image credit