When I was a kid, I had a recurring nightmare based in part on a real life experience: namely, that I slept through Halloween. In the nightmare, I went to sleep Oct. 30, and I woke up Nov. 1 having slept through all the trick or treating. All my friends had their buckets of candy, and I had nothing. My Mom says when I was preschool-age I did for several years get sick right at Halloween and miss some of the fun. While I don’t remember that, it must have stuck with me. I still remember those bad dreams which I always would have several nights in a row.
Of course that was back when Halloween really was a one-night event. If you snoozed, you really did lose. Ironically, I would have liked that when Max was littler. Now it seems there is a several week run-up to Halloween with all kinds of events starting with fall festivals in late September, moving on to a variety of special events most of which feature some clever version of boo or scream in their names at area zoos, museums, schools, malls and libraries and ending with more traditional trick or treating or the more current trunk or treating at homes, colleges, churches and businesses. Whatever the event the common denominator is always plenty of candy.
Our younger child, Claire, who has no food allergies, loves candy with a passion, and we have yet to find a perfect system for dealing with the inequity of one kid being able to eat whatever she wants and one kid having to give back half his stash.
Before Max started school, we would plant treat bags of candy at friends and neighbors. We would give one for each of our two kids with all the same items, all obviously safe for Max. The friends and neighbors often added a toy or safe treat, but it was great in that it was all safe and all the same. As Max got older and his awareness of all these other Halloween events grew, we started letting him take whatever was offered and then trading with him when we returned home. Sometimes I offered toys for the trade and sometimes I bought extra safe candy, but despite the lengthy run-up to Halloween, fall is always a busy time around here, I am never as organized about that as I would like.
There again Claire made it more difficult. She didn’t really want to hand over any candy, but she wanted some kind of similar toy or candy trade deal. Max, perhaps rightfully, didn’t think she should be able to hand over a handful of dums dums and a gumball and get the same deal he got for Hershey bars and Twix that he couldn’t even safely eat. Some clever mathematician could really help us out by writing a formula for candy trades: Two Tootsie Rolls are equal to one Laffy Taffy. One Kit Kat bar is equal to two snack-sized Twizzlers and so on.
Claire also is unpredictable. In her sweet moments, which are many, she is willing to trade him one to one his favorite Skittles for her favorite “milky” chocolates. This is great from my perspective in that it makes parental involvement unnecessary and I can even imagine that they are building lifelong negotiation skills as they are rotting their teeth. But if she is having an uncharacteristically diva-ish moment or if he has recently provoked her, she clearly recognizes her advantage and can become stubborn about not wanting to trade. He is stuck with something he can’t eat and she is happy enough with her Skittles. Even on the best Halloweens, the candy negotiations can be prolonged. It certainly brings the food allergy issues to the front burner for the night or month. But at the same time we try to keep perspective. After all, how to divide Halloween candy is definitely a first-world problem. Like all parents, I have been known to threaten to take it all and send it to someone needier.
One practical trick that helped was discovering the power of melted chocolate chips. There are several brands of dairy-free chips around. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me sooner, but Max was in elementary school before I realized I could do this. For those who are sensitive to items manufactured on a line with dairy, there are Divvies brand, which shoppers can special order. http://www.divvies.com As Max has gotten older, we have experimented with some of the chocolate chips that are manufactured on equipment that also processes milk. While he sometimes had a problem with those kinds of items as a toddler, they are less likely to be an issue for him today. Our favorite brand, which Max has never had a problem with, are the Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips. Here is one of the many uses we have found for them, which is perfect for this time of year:
one 12 ounce bag Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
one chocolate frog mold like this one that we have http://www.amazon.com/CK-Products-8-Inch-Frog-Chocolate/dp/B003QMMOZ8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1319959589&sr=8-2
Melt chocolate in a microwave safe glass measuring cup or bowl at 30 second intervals until melted, remembering to stir between cycles. Pour into molds while still hot. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate for several hours. Wrap in saran wrap. Store in airtight container.
Makes a dozen or so fairly large frogs. You can use the same method for almost any other mold or shape. If you’re planning ahead, chocolate Santas are good in December, and chocolate rabbits are fun in the spring.