Hyphenated Halloween

Yesterday, as we scrambled to put together costumes for the pre-school Halloween party, my daughters’ personality differences were on full display.

Sophie, generally easy-going and not as fussy about her appearance, made the quick decision to go as a cat. Simple enough; we gathered the all black ensemble; kitty ears, tulle skirt with attached tail, turtleneck, and leggings.

Grace, my mirror, inherited her mother’s discouraging habit of trying on every outfit in the closet (thus mussing the room with tossed, willy-nilly clothes) only to end up in the first frock that began the unfortunate series of events.

Standing amidst the candy-colored, tulle mess and finally pleased with her costume, I realized two things; Grace and I are very good examples of the power of genetics, and I need to get going on my punctuation re-education; this time placing focus on the hyphen.

According to Lynn Truss (Eat Shoots & Leaves), the hyphen is, “…hard to use wrongly.”

So why, then, do I feel so afraid them – not just at Halloween?

After a morning of Internet investigating, here is what I’ve learned:

1. Hyphens are very good at letting a reader in on a joke, also helping to imply that a raised or lowered voice will add emotion to the punch line.

i.e. My daughter has a face that looks like her aunt Janine – her attitude is all mom.

2. Hyphens can be used to connect or separate sentences, but are also appropriate when combining two words; creating compounds.

i.e. In Grace’s fifteen minute costume tirade, she was a butterfly-fairy, butterfly-princess, cat-princess, princess-bride, before rounding back to the beginning, settling on the original and most, “This one doesn’t tickle,” butterfly-fairy.

3. When two describing words come after a noun, they are not hyphenated.

i.e. I love apples when they’re caramel covered.

4. A hyphen can be used to join two (or more) words that act as a combined adjective before a noun.

i.e. I hope they have caramel-covered apples at the Halloween party this afternoon.

5. Lots of words can be connected (or combined) with or without hyphens.

i.e. The hair-splitting screams came from the bedroom were spooky.

i.e. Grace’s screams were hairsplitting.

i.e. Hair splitting screams are not a good way to start the morning.

6. Hyphenate compound numbers.

i.e Is it weird for a forty-one-year-old to wear a tutu?

7. Hyphens should be used with the prefixes self-, ex-, and all-, and with the suffix -elect. They can be used with other prefixes if it helps to clarify a confusing word or spelling. Here is a great list of examples (much better than my own).

But here is my attempt …

i.e. Pre-adolescence is going to fun!

i.e. It is unacceptable to leave your room a mess.

i.e. Re-education (with the prefix separated by a hyphen) looks less confusing to me than reeducation.

8. Probably the first time I was ever made to be afraid of the hyphen was when learning that they are needed in sentences when the word doesn’t fit on the line.

a. Divide line breaks at the place where the hyphen already exists.

b. Between syllables.

c. With words that end in -ing, they need to be separated at the place where the final consonant and root word are split (i.e. run-ning, or speak-ing, or dres-sing).

9. Saving the best for last, if you happen to use an Apple computer and want a longer hyphen, as opposed to a tiny word-spacing hyphen, press the alt button, while also pressing the hyphen at the upper right side of the keyboard.

i.e.[-] vs. [–]. Nice, right?

In approximately four-and-a-half hours we will revisit the “hyphenation Halloween-costume-fiasco”, as we attempt to ready ourselves for today’s afternoon Halloween house party (house-party?).

Without the help of a hyphen, what-oh-what would we be?

Are you dressing up for Halloween? What are your kids going to be? Any hyphens involved?


Pumpkin-princess. But does she really need a hyphen? The debate continues …

Popcorn, Kids and Magic

Yesterday I spent the morning in a small room with eight four-year olds where I’d signed up to be their substitute teacher. Many of the children I already knew by name as they’d been in other classes with my girls or had frequented our playground with their moms.

Before I was a mom, I was a teacher, so my comfort level there was familiar and easy.

We painted and read and worked on letters and as we got to know each other as teacher and students I was on the receiving end of the love that children give in spurts to thank you and let you know that you are trusted. If teaching was only about the children, going back full-time would be without question.

Toward the end of the day, Mrs. L (the assistant) pushed play on the old tape recorder set high on a shelf.

“The popcorn song,” she said, “Give yourself space.”

While the kids ran to find their place, a good distance between themselves and their friends, I sandwiched myself between the painting easel and the cubbies.

The music began; a shaking, beating, wiggling sound propelling bodies to move.

Each little person bounced and shook and wiggled, practically choreographed,each transition perfectly timed. The corners of my mouth pointed upward at the sight of each child’s deeply rooted personal and electric rhythm.

Like the moment when the space shuttle is about to take off or the pulsing of a bass drum, the swirling liquid inside a bottle of Mountain Dew just before the cap twists off or the sound of OM in a room full of yogis, the children created a force.

They were small, their imprint took up little space, but their force was huge.

Huge and magical.

Happy magic emanating from small energetic packages.

I forget sometimes that kids have such power. I forget a a lot, actually, especially with mine who whine a lot and boss me around a lot and hit each other a lot and need something from me all the live long day.

At the end of class I asked the children to tell me their favorite part of the morning.

“You want to know mine?” I asked.

“The popcorn song.”

“Yep,” said the lot, “Mine too!”

Ever have a moment that leaves you spell-bound and happy?


Pop pop pop pop music.

Girls (and Sharks?) on the Sound

Lying in my sick-bed feeling all sorts of phlegmy, I looked out my window to the sprawling Long Island Sound and noticed the faintest splashing blip looking all sorts of familiar.

The blip was daughter A, first-born Sophie, easily recognizable in her red and blue life-preserver, but way far out in the sea. She was kicking her feet behind Macy (age seven) who was kneeling on a paddle board and expertly stroking her way perpendicular to the shore.

To the far right was daughter B, second born Grace (not as fearless as her sister), being pulled in an inner tube by her dad whilst sitting close to Macy’s sister Ruby (age nine).

I resisted the urge to run out to the beach and yell something like this:

“That water is over six feet deep! You are over six feet deep! The weatherman says to stay closer to shore! There are sharks on the Cape! I don’t want you to be eaten! Get out! Get out! Get out!”

It is true that there are Great White Sharks on the Cape this summer and people have been bitten!

Not eaten, no, but still…

There were baby seals all up and down the rocky Maine beaches that were most certainly fleeing from those enormous and mysterious creatures.

But I, as energetic as a baby seal who’d just finished swimming for her life, am too sick to run anywhere. If there really was a shark out there I could only hope that Brian would fight it off, protecting all the little ladies with all his might so that the girls could safely swim to shore.

I could only hope.

Sophie kicked and kicked as Macy expertly guided their board. I was astonished by the ease in which she switched her paddle’s grip from left hand to right.

I watched as Sophie reached and stretched her body throwing one leg up onto the board, then two, before kneeling to ride behind Ms. Macy; the two of them out there like kick ass little women on the ocean, in the sun, free like birds and cool like cucumbers.

Brian pulled a long red cord that maneuvered Grace and Ruby around and around and around in swishy circles and now that they were all in my direct view, it seemed that they were agreeing on a plan to head toward land.

I sat back relieved that they would be home soon and within moments the slap of the front screen door alerted me to their arrival.

In our kitchen stood four brown berried bodies dripping heaps of water onto the floor while digging ferociously into a bag of honey pretzels.

I didn’t mind.

They were happy.

And wet.

And hungry.

So I fed them as many carbohydrates as their bodies could consume and they are again back out there on the Sound giving me a moment to rest and watch and feel thankful.

Thankful for kick ass little girls and for my cold (it really is a horrendous cold) that gave them this experience today.

The view from my bed. That blip in front of the boat would be Sophie and Macy…

I Heart Yoga

Update to this morning’s post:

Lit the incense, put on the music and stretchy pants, got out the mats, and got down to business.

Yoga with kids is not the same as yoga alone, but it has different benefits.

I feel so much better, body and mind. My kids are happy and we had fun playing. I didn’t get any sort of flow going (kind of hard with little monsters wanting a hug mid stretch), but managed a sweat inducing bunch of sun salutations, a couple triangles, wide leg forward folds and some core cultivation. My focus is clearer and I’m ready to attack the day!

I Heart yoga.

Lost my incense holder, but sunglasses and the top of a water bottle worked out well.
Today's music choice, picked by Sophie.
Sophie getting into Happy Baby.
Grace walking the dog.
Opening the heart in Up Dog.
Yoga with kids leads to spontaneous hugging.

Raising Runners

Sophie in my sneakers. She was only about a year and half here. I love that she put them on unsolicited, and that our trusty old runner is in the background. I miss that thing, and having babies to put in it.

Some days I wonder if I’m being the best mom I can be. I won’t bore the world with the list of shortcomings (oh, there are many), but one thing I know that I’m doing right is proven by this photo.  Exercise is a part of life. I don’t expect my monsters to run marathons or become yoga instructors (although a yoga instructor in the family would surely come in handy), but they will know that exercise is just another thing we do, like eating or sleeping.  One of the most important lessons I learned when I worked as a fourth grade teacher is that kids learn by what is modeled for them. Do as I do, not do as I say. Now if only I could model that desert doesn’t need to be eaten daily, I could check another shortcoming off the list.