It's that time of year again, the time of year when opening my mailbox is as pleasant as listening to the proverbial fingernails-on-chalk (or my personal audio bete-noire: fingers squeaking on balloons).

I opened my mailbox today and found the first one, the first of many yet to come:

Halloween costume catalogs.

Growing up, I trick-or-treated just a handful of times.  Halloween happens to be the same day as my dear old dad's birthday; when 10/31 rolled around on the calendar, we'd usually leave all the lights off at our house and head out to dinner instead.

I used to think this made for a minor poverty in my childhood.

Oh, but for the lost treasure trove of unenjoyed Pixie Stix, BlowPops, and tiny Hershey Bars!

Then I became a parent myself and began seeing Halloween through different eyes.

In the beginning, Halloween was cute.

It was fun. 

I dressed the babies up as pumpkins or bumble bees or dragons.  Knute and I would load them in the stroller or wagon and pull them around our street. They'd get the thrill of staying up past bedtime and getting free candy. 

Back in those days, when Becky and Huck were tiny together, we lived on a small street with a cul-de-sac.  There were maybe ten or twelve houses on our street and just one or two other similarly small streets near us.  Many of our neighbors were retired or didn't have young children and as a result, we didn't get too many trick-or-treaters.

Fast foward by a few more years, two moves, and another kiddo in our blue-eyed gang and Halloween is a much different kind of night altogether.

First, there is our personal family rule: if you are 10 years old (hi Becky!), you are too old to be out trick-or-treating.

I know, I know - I am the Grinch of Halloween.  Feel free to throw caramel apples at me now.

Second, there is the addendum to Rule #1 above that even if you aren't trick-or-treating, it's still perfectly fine to dress up in an age-appropriate costume for our school's Halloween parade and for handing out candy.

And therein lies my beef with the Halloween costume catalogs; apparently, the latest Halloween fashions for tween girls (and even little tiny girls) are inspired by moments of cultural greatness like the Toddlers in Tiaras episode where the mother dressed her toddler up like Julia Robert's character in Pretty Woman.

It's beyond icky, some of these costumes in the catalog.  Some are just creepy, and not in that Nightmare on Elm Street kind of way, either.

Third, I have a feeling I'll be rewriting my Top 10 Inappropriate Halloween Moments of 2009 because last year, I flat out told a few of the teenagers who showed up at my door with pillowcases and a few random lipsticked blood smears on their faces as their Halloween "costumes" to MOVE ALONG.

Oh yes I did. 

So as the Halloween shopping season swings into full steam, I'm thinking about alternative ways to deal with the sugar-frenzy-entitlement-borderline-pervy-costumes-for-kids mess that it's become.

I think we'll be making dinner reservations for seven and baking Grandpa a birthday cake.

Let's hope my house doesn't get TP'd!