Scary movies, childhood trauma, and Halloween

[Warning: Graphic horror descriptions included in this post.  No joke.]

When I was 10 years old I was in 5th grade and had the very great honor of being invited to a 6th grade slumber party.  Carol Addison was also granted this highest of 10-year-old-girl honors.

Jacqui Green lived at the end of my cul-de-sac in a two story house that was the mirror image of mine.  She had long black hair and green eyes and was a soft spoken, yet fierce tether-ball competitor.   She was mostly a loner on the playground, but had decided to have a big bash of a birthday party and invited a dozen classmates.

Long story short, it was the most traumatic, terrifying night of my childhood, without exception.  From what I can remember we had three movie choices: a Nightmare on Elm St (it was '85, so whatever version of that movie it was at the time), a Friday the 13th, and Sleepaway Camp (the original, first movie).  I can vividly remember thinking, "Oh, shit."

The girls decided to watch the least scary movie first: Sleepaway Camp.

I sat on that couch, wedged between bony butts eating cheese balls, mortified by what I was seeing.  Kids were mowed down by boats, a sexy girl had a knifed dragged down her back in a locker room, a man had boiling water poured on his face.  I did my best to be cool, to not look scared, but it was no use.  I tried watching the movie in the reflection of the fireplace panes, but after some children were hacked to death in their sleeping bags during a camping trip in the woods I got up to find the other group of girls who'd opted out of the scary movie.

They were playing on a Ouija board.

I sat down and joined in, but when someone asked, "Who here in this room will die first?" I returned to the movie and finished it.

It has one of the most horrifying, vile, terrifying endings of any movie I've ever seen.  A pubescent boy with hair on his genitals, long, flowing hair and stark, raving, psychosis in his eyes standing spread eagle with a severed head in his hands; his mouth agape and ape-like.

I have chills running all over my body even describing it now.

That is how the movie ends.  With the frame frozen on that sick image.

I don't remember cake.  I don't remember singing "Happy Birthday."  I only recall fighting tooth and nail to not be in a sleeping bag on the very end in the living room.  I got that far, but as I lay there trying to sleep all I could feel was my heart pounding in my ribcage.  I couldn't get those images out of my mind.  I knew it wasn't real, but my little body couldn't make the disconnect.  I thought I was going to die for my heart fluttered and skipped and my breathing was irregular. 

I got up and asked Jacqui to use her phone and called my parents.

"Daddy," I said, "I want to come home."

"OK, sweetie," he replied groggily, "I'll leave the door unlocked for you."

"NO.  You have to come and get me."

He drove our Chevy Celebrity the block and a half in his underwear.  "I let Whiskers in.  She can sleep with you," he said.

"No, Daddy.  I want to sleep with you and Mommy."

And it was like that for the next year.

Yes.  YEAR.

(As it turns out, if my memory serves me, Carol also called her parents for a ride home.  Was it because we were 10 and needed an extra year of development?  I'll never know.)

That movie affected so much.  It affected my relationship with music, with being a teenager, with my sense of safety in the world.  I had never even imagined things so graphic, so evil, in my entire life.  For years I could only fall asleep listening to classical music; I convinced myself that the entire episode happened in Maine (as far away as I could think of from California).  Years and years later I realized that my jumpiness, the easiness with which I was scared, and my general disconnect from music was due to mild PTSD.  From that stupid fucking movie.

Every Halloween I remember that night and the years of climbing out of that pit of terror.  I'm a grown up now, but it all rushes back to me when I see the ghoulish, bloody costumes hanging in Target aisles.  And I wonder if Hawk is being at all affected by these things.  I want to say, No, he's not, since there's no emotional connection for him, but he's not stupid.  These things are inherently scary.  They're supposed to evoke a primal emotion.  That's what they're designed to do.  Just like a scorpion looks scary to anyone from anywhere in the world, a bloody, hacked up zombie face will do the same.

And yet, I encourage my baby three-year old to be bold.  To walk up to what he fears and to touch and smell these awful things.  I have to walk up to these things boldly, too.  I have to hit the "TRY ME" buttons attached to robotic witches and ghosts that make scary noises and my skin tingle to show that I am able to look beyond the obvious and solve the riddle of their existence; lift up their gowns and show the metal rods and the ridiculous recorded loops of their howls.

Seeing Hawk dance and skip in sheer joy at these novelties helps to take some of the fear away.  I want him to know the difference between real and imaginary, but to also work out his fears and not ruminate on them like I did.  I know he's still little and there's plenty of time in his life for nightmares, but until then I want him to feel safe and like an adventurer.  Like he's the pilot in his life.

I imagine that whenever he feels that prick in the back of this neck from fear it's when he calls something "spooky."  It sucks that I won't be able to protect him from darker terror later in life, but I guess that's not really my job anyway.  My job is to give him the tools to navigate it.

And frankly, I don't think they should have this awful shit out in broad daylight, but a semi-naked woman's body wrapped in plastic and out of reach.  I'd much rather him see human sexuality -- even if objectified -- than decaying faces and body parts that might haunt him for years to come.

I dunno, what's up with that??  What do you think of the horror that's so accessibly displayed in stores?  Do you think it's ok?  Does it bother you?  Am I the only weenie out there?

The "Guys" as Hawk calls them.  Whenever we go to Target he insists we visit them.

Brave enough to pat it.

Pleasant, no?

The package says it all. 

These masks scare me.  (I told you I was a weenie.)


All you need to know about Nestlé: Don't buy it

This week we'll start buying candy like it's our job, but we need to be aware of something: One of the largest companies in the world is a bad guy.  Like, a real and true bad. guy.  And if you couldn't tell from the image above, it's Nestlé.

To put it most simply, Nestlé doesn't deserve our money because, as Boo Nestlé's contributors (Annie of Phd in Parenting, Danielle Friedland, Amy of Crunchy Domestic Goddess, Michelle of MamaBear, and Elita of Blacktating) say so eloquently, it commits:
  •    CRIMES AGAINST BABIES: Nestlé contributes to the unnecessary death and suffering of infants around the world by aggressively marketing baby foods in developing nations, in breach of the World Health Organization's international marketing standards. Nestlé says they don't market to parents but they market aggressively to medical professionals and provide free formula to hospitals. Parents are convinced to use formula instead of breastfeeding and by the time their free supply of the formula runs out, mothers' ability to breastfeed has disappeared and Nestlé has a paying customer at the expense of a child's health and life.

    •    Regardless of how you feel about the use of formula in your life, it's important to understand that in the developing world, the difference between formula and breastfeeding can mean life or death to infants due to the lack of availability of clean water, lack of means of sterilizing bottles and that parents are often unable to prepare bottles to minimum specifications because they can either not read their own language or read the English directions on the label. Additionally, because formula is so expensive, many parents water down the formula to make canisters last longer. The World Health Organization estimates that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed.

    •    CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN: Nestlé is one of the major cocoa importers that still sources its cocoa beans from the Ivory Coast. According to the US State Department, there are approximately 109,000 children working in the country's cocoa industry under slave-like conditions. Nestlé promised in 2001 to make its chocolate "child labor-free" by 2005 but that promise was broken and the deadline ignored.

    •    CRIMES AGAINST COMMUNITIES: Nestlé is also guilty of pilfering public water supplies worldwide for profit, wreaking damage on the environment as well as communities. Their water mining operations have caused damage to watersheds after assuring rural communities they would be "good corporate neighbors." Small towns that refused to throw open their water supplies to Nestlé have been targeted with litigation designed to bully and bankrupt. For more information, visit http://www.corporatewatch.org/?lid=240

October 25th - 31st is Nestlé-Free week.  Give the boycott a go (and sign a pledge here, if you like), it's a lot easier than you might think.  I've been actively boycotting their products for roughly a year and as I learn more about their product list I keep adding to my own boycott list. 

Below is a list of Nestlé products to avoid this week besides just the obvious candy (though Nescafé is the real target of the boycott).  [Ed. note: Like Grumbles and Grunts I was also happy to realize that I've been a Nestlé-free household for much longer than I thought.  You might be surprised, too!]

[Ed. add: To partially address the comment by @Flatspunk, I think Halloween week is the perfect week to take a closer look at our purchases, especially in regards to a product we might not usually buy in such high quantities (candy).  No time like the present to start making changes.]

So buy thoughtfully this week and ever after.  Our pocketbooks are powerful voting tools.

[List via Wikipedia]




Other drinks

Shelf stable


  • Chamyto (Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Philippines)
  • Chiquitín (Mexico, Chile)
  • Club (Mexico)
  • Hirz (Switzerland)
  • La Laitière (France,Belgium)
  • La Lechera (Spain,Mexico)
  • Moça (Brazil)
  • Chandelle (Brazil, Chile)
  • LC1 (Switzerland)
  • Molico (Brazil now Svelty)
  • Nestlé
  • Ski
  • Sollys (Brazil)
  • Sveltesse (France)
  • Svelty (Mexico)
  • Yoco
  • Munch Bunch (UK)
  • Le Viennois (France, Belgium, Switzerland)
  • Nesvita (Philippines, India)
  • Ninho (Brazil)

Ice cream

Infant foods

Performance nutrition

  • Musashi
  • Neston
  • Nesvita
  • PowerBar
  • Pria
  • Supligen

Healthcare nutrition

  • Boost
  • Carnation Instant Breakfast
  • Nutren
  • Peptamen
  • Glytrol
  • Crucial
  • Impact
  • Isosource
  • Fibersource
  • Diabetisource
  • Compleat
  • Optifast
  • Resource


  • Buitoni
  • Maggi
  • Carpathia
  • CHEF
  • Thomy
  • Winiary

Frozen foods

Frozen Pizza: Tombstone Pizza Jack's Pizza DiGiorno Pizza California Pizza Kitchen Frozen

Refrigerated products

  • Buitoni
  • Herta
  • Nestlé
  • Toll House

Chocolate, confectionery and baked goods

Wonka confectionery brands

Nestlé made Wonka Bars to promote the 2005 film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

Foodservice products

  • Chef-Mate
  • Davigel
  • Minor's
  • Santa Rica



Separation is critical

Welcome to the October Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Centered, Finding Balance

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they stay centered and find balance. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
 Having great, alone grown-up time with my friend, Linda, on a pedi-cab in downtown Austin.

Carving out time for myself was something I didn't excel at until, quite frankly, I didn't worry about my marriage anymore.

For me, not only did I put all I had into raising my son, but I also put all I had into my relationship; leaving very little left over for me, despite knowing the pitfalls of such behavior.  I never thought of myself as a victim or a martyr, my interests just shifted from partying with my friends to parenting and wifing.  If mothering were a "career" you could say I was a workaholic.  But I was happy with that.  Truly.  It kept me safe from being let down by anyone (Hawk always needed me) and I had flexible hours.

Ok, so this was all fine and good for the first couple of years when mothering was most intense (breastfeeding, gentle night-time parenting, attachment parenting, early childhood nutrition, etc. -- oh my God there's so much to learn and do those first few months), but once Hawk started needing me less I was left with more emotional space for myself, but nothing to really focus on.

So, you're probably wondering how on earth this post has anything to do with the carnival topic, right?  Well, I'm here to tell you that if you don't fight for your own space, your own place to be YOU, things won't work right.  I'm not saying your marriage will end like mine did, but you won't feel good.  Plain and simple.  And isn't that reason enough to do something differently??

As one half of a whole partnership you must negotiate time off from things that aren't true expressions of yourself (cleaning the house, thinking about bills, birthday parties, obligations, relationships, etc.).  No one else is going to fight for this elbow room for you.  It's up to you.

It's been such a bittersweet realization for me to feel so open and free and so many times more myself now whenever Hawk is with Rooster.  I go to coffee shops, I meet friends for beers, I sit and watch the trashiest, stupidest TV known to man without remorse.  I didn't do any of this when Rooster and I were together because I felt like the time he was home was beyond precious and that I owed it to him and our marriage to be present both physically and emotionally.

I certainly don't point the finger at my lack of me-time as the culprit for the demise of our coupling, but I can say with assertion that it also didn't help. Not one bit.  (I think it's important to note that Rooster didn't take any me-time, either, when he was home.  I can't speak to how he felt alone on business trips, but it's likely he felt a little more autonomous than I did just via travel solitude.)

Running to get a pedicure during nap time does not quality me-time make.  You dig?

So, to all of you who are busting your humps to make marriage/baby/life hum along, I hope you are somehow able to tug on the reins and slow down and really and truly allow yourself the space to be you.  If I had it to do over again I would model what a friend of mine and her husband do.  Every weekend day they divide it in half: She takes the twins in the mornings and he leaves the house, and then he takes them in the afternoon and evening and she takes off.  The next day they flip flop.  Weeknights are family/couple time and they are thriving because they get all they need through thoughtful negotiation and lots of support.

Separation is critical for a sense of self and emotional health.  I never imagined that my separation was going to come from such a tear in my plans, but it doesn't really matter in the long run.  I'm rolling with the punches these days and I haven't been this happy in a long time.  Moral of the story?  Separation, no matter how it happens, is good for the soul.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated October 12 with all the carnival links.)
  • The World from Within My Arms — Rachael at The Variegated Life finds balance despite her work and her husband's commitment to art through attachment parenting. (@RachaelNevins)
  • Balancing the Teeter-Totter — Rebecca is rediscovering balance by exploring her interests and passions in several different categories. She shares in this guest post at The Connected Mom. (@theconnectedmom)
  • TITLE — Danielle at born.in.japan is slowly learning the little tricks that make her family life more balanced. (@borninjp)
  • Uninterrupted Parenting — Amy at Innate Wholeness has learned that she does not need to interrupt parenting in order to find balance.
  • Knitting for My Family — Knitting is more than just a hobby for Kellie at Our Mindful Life, it is her creative and mental outlet, it has blessed her with friendships she might not otherwise have had, and it provides her with much-needed balance.
  • Taking the Time — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker has all the time she needs, now her girls are just a bit older.
  • Please, Teach Me How — Amy at Anktangle needs your help: please share how you find time for yourself, because she is struggling. (@anktangle)
  • A Pendulum Swings Both Ways — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment found herself snapping with too little time for herself, and then veered toward too much.
  • Finding Balance Amidst Change — It took a season of big changes and added responsibility, but Melodie of Breastfeeding Moms Unite! now feels more balanced and organized as a mama than ever before. (@bfmom)
  • At Home with Three Young Children: The Search for Balance, Staying Sane — With three young kids, Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings knows parents sometimes have to adjust their expectations of how much downtime they can reasonably have. (@sunfrog)
  • Attachment Parenting? And finding some "Me Time" — As a mother who works full time, Momma Jorje wants "me" time that includes her daughter.
  • A Balancing Act — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes has concrete ways to help keep centered with a little one and a new baby on the way, from exercise to early bedtimes to asking for help. (@sheryljesin)
  • Aspiring Towards Libra — Are your soul-filling activities the first to be pushed aside when life gets hectic? Kelly of KellyNaturally.com aspires to make time for those "non-necessities" this year. (@kellynaturally)
  • SARKisms for Sanity — Erica at ChildOrganics has found renewed inspiration to take baths and laugh often from a book she had on the shelf. (@childorganics)


Learn this: A child's body and mind are his own, not anyone else's.

My little man-in-training.

A few random things came together over the last couple of days:
  • I promised myself I would watch every Oprah episode this year since it's her last
  • I've started studying for my counseling exam
  • I've recommitted to being present with Hawk
  • Hawk leaped ahead in cognitive and verbal development

The first is incongruous enough, but the episode I saw had Wynonna Judd on it along with her mother.  Apparently, they've had a contentious, undifferentiated relationship for years and have been struggling to sort it out in therapy.  Wynonna has been lost as an individual and unable to know when her wants and needs started in relation to her mother's and she poignantly pointed out that as a child her body was never her own; she was never allowed to ward off a hug, a pat, or a squeeze whenever an adult wanted it.  She was scolded for trying to protect her personal space -- a very powerful concept that struck me deeply coming from a family that often chased me down (literally) for physical attention.

The second, also incongruous, involves the first chapter of review in my study-guide book -- child development -- so there has been lots of talk about the cognitive abilities of children as they grow, their limitations, their understanding of their world and the people and relationships in it, and of themselves.

Third, on occasion I find myself wishing for the end of the day when I can shut down from being 100% "on" with Hawk.  Of course this is immediately followed by piercing guilt, then love, then re-ignition of my presence of mind to the moment: this moment, the larger moment, all of it.  But it's happening all the same and I need to reel myself back in and check myself.

And last, Hawk is more present in his world.  He notices who is where and when (though the why is happily still beyond his grasp).  His language has improved, he understands complex thoughts such as "tomorrow" and a little more about cause and effect.  It's this last piece that is most important to me because I don't want him to start laying pathways to self-destruction such as: I'm doing X and Mommy is distant and unavailable because of it.

All of these things have conspired to remind me of one unalienable right that many of us forget entirely:
Children are their own person and their bodies and emotions are their own to govern, express, and share as they see fit. 

As adults we often overlook the fact that they have the right to be who they are regardless of their control.  In fact, because of their utter lack of control in their worlds we should go especially out of our way to let them be who they are. 

I've taken this to mean a couple of things:

1. If I am in a good mood and Hawk is determined to be in a bad mood, I should let him do so with no consequence other than acceptance and giving him a space in which to do it.  I certainly feel any way I choose when the mood hits, so why should I have the right to deny him the same freedoms just because it's inconvenient to me?  And since he can't go lock himself in a closet and scream, I have to provide that opportunity to him.  

If Hawk has a melt down because God-knows-why, then he is doing exactly what he should be doing.  He is the center of his universe, can barely wrap his head around "Not now, later," and is only just now developing coping skills.  It is wholly cruel of me to expect him to stop an untoward behavior simply because I am over it.

Case in point, we were at Old Navy yesterday having a swell time when, out of the blue, his mood tanked about an hour earlier than it normally would.  I was caught unawares and lost my cool.  I stormed out of the store with him in my arms curtly telling him to "Stop it," every few steps as he sobbed and yelled and hit my chest and back to go back.  He fought me getting into the car seat and lest I force him in it by brute force alone I had no options.  At the thought of physically over-powering him I felt slapped.  I sat back and took a deep breath, looked into his tear-streaked face and said, "Baby, I'm so sorry for scaring you... come here," and pulled him onto my lap.  He continued to sob as I patted his back and apologized for losing my cool and getting angry.  He choked out, "Mama not angwy, me angwy!  Me sowwy!"

I said, "Yeah, baby, we're both angry and being angry is ok.  But it's not ok to be mean to someone you love when you're angry.  And I was a little mean by being scary."

I kept holding him and tried to kiss him, but he refused the touch and sternly said, "No kisses!"  He wanted only the hugs and pats.  I said, "Ok, you tell me when you're ready for a kiss," and he agreed.

As we began the drive home he continued to be upset, still sobbing "I wanna go baaaaack!" mixed in with completely unintelligible whines.   I snapped again and yelled angrily, "What is it that you waaaaaaant!?!?!"  He cried harder.  I took a couple more deep breaths for few beats and asked again, "Baby, what is it that you want?  Mama wants to help make you feel better and she's frustrated because she doesn't know how to help you," to which he replied, clear as a bell,

"Me not want to feel better.  Me saaaad and maaad!"

I swear you could have knocked me over with a feather.  He wasn't ready to be placated, to feel better.  He wanted to be upset.  I rode back home in silence chewing on my thoughts.  Hawk intermittently whimpered and watched the word whiz by his windows.

This was a major epiphany for me.  I've been protecting his right to his physical space since his birth, but the truth of the matter is, I haven't been protecting his emotional rights quite as much if they threw a wrench in my day.  

2.  I need to remove the concept that some emotions are "good or bad."  Emotions inherently have no value.  They are neither better or worse than others, just more or less accepted.  But here I was determined to help him feel better because the whining, crying, rage was pissing me off, when ultimately he was quite happy being unhappy and it was my own personal comfort level that was being affected.  Nothing else.

If I had it to do over again I wouldn't have engaged my own anger with his and I would simply have taken him to the car, told him to let it out via screaming and kicking (though, not at my person, specifically) and then told him I'd be there for a hug whenever he was done.

I'm not advocating letting your children tear about the planet expressing every emotion they have at any given time, but I am advocating a deeper understanding of their developmental levels and what, exactly, it is we're expecting of them.  Would an adult appreciate being scolded for being grumpy?  Would an adult appreciate tacit nonacceptance of her feelings?  Would an adult understand the nuances of social expectations and the role he had in society in general as visitor to a new planet?

These questions could play an important role in getting along with children exploring emotional boundaries with their caregivers, and within themselves, by allowing them the room to do so without internalizing shame or criticism given because it wasn't convenient to the adult.

I don't know... it's complex, I know.  I'm just trying to stay plugged in and present, but it's hard when I'm shredded most days.  I have hardly anything to give, but I hate more than anything to let myself or Hawk down when I know I can always dig a little deeper.  I want him to see the effort even if the execution is imperfect because that's part of the lesson I want him to take away: perfection isn't the goal, it's growth; mistakes happen, we can talk about them; and, most importantly, he is worthwhile in every shade of emotion he has, not just the ones that are easier for me.

(And if you've made it this far, you deserve a gold-fucking-star.  Thank you.  Truly.  I love that you're here.)