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Mommy Doc Madness: Halloween Hangover . . .

Well, it's been a week and I'm still hungover from Halloween! No, no alcohol involved. I'm just pooped.

Halloween Day my kids were off school. I’m not sure why Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools thought it was a great idea to take the day of Halloween off (instead of the day after), but they did. So, I took the day off with my kids. It started off with a trip to get flu shots. Because I'm such a terrible planner, I waited until the last minute to get an appointment at our pediatrician’s office. Of course, by the time I called, there were no slots left. So, I swallowed my pride and headed off to CVS Minute Clinic to get them the flu shots. (As an ambassador of my own health care system, it pains me to go outside the system to get medical care.) I chose a location close to my office so I can use my own parking spot.

As we walked in to the CVS registration kiosk, I was horrified to see one of my very own patients stepping out of the CVS Minute Clinic exam room. He kindly greeted me and we exchanged a few words. He said he hadn’t even bothered to try to get into our office to be seen. He just ran into the Minute Clinic because he knew it would be faster and more convenient. Ouch! Granted, I was not in the office to see him that day, but I have worked tirelessly for years to make sure we have on-demand access for our patients. I had spent eight hours at a presentation on Friday, talking about convenient access and comparing health care to Amazon and our need to have the "dash button" approach for patients to get in. Certainly, we do not have that reputation with patients. In seeing my patient use another service, I felt completely defeated as a doctor and a healthcare administrator!

After a grueling two-hour wait to get flu shots (so much for fast and convenient), I was already exhausted from shuttling my children away from the "50% off Halloween candy section" at CVS, and averting their eyes from the near-porn in the magazine racks, all strategically located just outside the Minute Clinic waiting area. I found myself explaining to my kids why avoiding such "dirty magazines" would keep their minds pure. Not a conversation I was planning to have when we were just getting flu shots!

Finally, we were off to breakfast and then to the dentist. Like all working moms, I was trying to get in as many activities and errands as we could on a day off school. The dentist was a semi-positive experience. No cavities discovered, but I did receive an assurance that all of my children are headed down the braces path. Cha-ching, $$$$!!

Since the day was still young, I had the spontaneous idea to take my kids to vote. I had the day off, they could go with me, and they could learn about their civic duty. So, we headed off to the closest open polls. We found a lovely parallel parking space and waltzed right in, with no line. Good start. The experience, however, quickly went downhill. The first lady met us with a disdainful look and mumbled, "Oh great, you have your children here . . . Well, they’ll have to be quiet and you need to stay behind that line." We were nowhere near the line when she gave us this admonition. We then waited to be called over to the registration station where they ask for your name and address. No ID required, of course. I sat down as my children stood quietly behind me. Somehow, the lady with the registration book felt the need to tell my children to stand behind me and be quiet. They were already behind me, they were not moving, and they were not saying a word. We then waited to be called to an electronic voting booth. Yet another poll volunteer waved us over and scolded my children to "never touch the buttons." I assured her that they would not be touching the buttons, they were simply observing the process.

I personally pressed all the buttons, submitted my ballot, and we quietly walked out of the voting area. Again, as we left, another volunteer begrudgingly gave my children a sticker saying that they could have one, even though they did not vote! I was thinking, "Gee thanks!" 

As we were departing the polls, my son looked up to me and asked in a clearly audible voice, "Mom, is everybody who works here a mean, old woman?"  I politely shushed him and then tried to explain their behavior in the car. But there was really no good explanation. Here I was, trying to encourage my children to understand the process of civic duty, and I was hoping the poll volunteers would have been encouraging. Yet, my kids got the message that voting is bad. Bummer.

We came back home and cooked all afternoon in preparation for our huge Teague Annual Halloweenfest, a big party for neighbors and friends. By 7 o'clock, we had over sixty people milling around our house, eating loads of candy, cupcakes, meatballs and my famous "white trash dip" (yes, that is actually the name of it in my Southern Baptist cookbook). I waltzed around the house wearing my horns and a lovely Maleficent costume. It was a total blast. By 10:30, I was running the last guest out of the house and trying to get my kids shuttled into bed. The last activity of the evening was to get my children prepared for the Great Pumpkin.   For years, we've had a tradition in our house that you can eat as much candy as you can shove into your mouth on Halloween night. I really don't even care if you puke! But, by bedtime, you can only hold back five pieces of candy. The rest is left on the front doorstep for a visit from the Great Pumpkin. The mysterious character takes the candy in exchange for a small toy.  I cannot take credit for the concept of the Great Pumpkin. And, I’m not really sure how the tradition made it into our house. But it a fabulous tradition that rids our home of all the unwanted sugar rushes for the next several months.

Tuesday morning at 4:30, I got up to perform my Great Pumpkin duties and was befuddled with a note from my daughter. It read:  

Dear Great Pumpkin,

I'm tired. This year, I really don't even want a toy. If you could just make it snow so I don't have to be at school tomorrow, that would be great!

Wow. She had me, or she had the Great Pumpkin, that is! Needless to say, it didn't snow, she had to go to school, but she did end up with a gift card from Target.

As crazy as Halloween day was, it’s opened the door to many conversations this week. Many about voting, doing the right thing (like brushing your teeth), keeping your mind clean, and submitting to authority. The election is upon us and, no matter what the outcome, it’s been an opportunity to teach my kids about respecting authority. I have found myself working through the truths of 1 Peter 2:11-15:

Dear friends, I warn you as "temporary residents and foreigners" to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world. For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you. For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.

Who knew the activities of one Halloween day could open such doors!

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