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I'm definitely not one of those mothers who go all out for Halloween. You know the ones I mean. They sit on the front row in the gymnasium during the Halloween kindergarten assembly with a video camera taking pictures of Melvin in his homemade green velvet stegosaurus costume complete with stuffed spikes and a 6-foot tail.

When my 5-year-old asked for help with his costume, I told him to put a raisin in his belly button, a chocolate chip in his arm pit and go as a cookie.Halloween is simple when you have preschoolers. You simply get them ready for bed in their usual pink or yellow blanket sleepers, paint a couple of whiskers under their nose with an eyebrow pencil and tell them they're bunnies. Then you drag them around enough blocks to get a big enough stash of candy to make you and your husband hyperactive for a week.

Actually, staying home to answer the door on Halloween is the most fun. This is where you stay close to your front entrance for hours answering the incessant ding-dong for sweet little children who sometimes have trouble taking in all the formality of this candy business.

I remember last Halloween. The first time I answered the door and waited for the traditional "trick or treat," I was greeted with total silence. The eye holes in the fuzzy orange-wigged clown mask didn't match up with its 4-year-old occupant.

"Say `Trick or treat,' " I heard some dark adult figure growl from the sidewalk.

Still silence.

"Jason, say `Trick or treat,' for crying out loud!"

I don't think Jason heard anything. He was busy slurping on a purple and green sucker that was stuck halfway into the left eye hole of his face mask.

Suddenly I saw Jason being jerked back down the sidewalk.

The next time I answered the door, I saw six embarrassed trick-or-treaters who looked more like Christmas carolers. When they finally stopped crying, I figured out their Mom made them wear their coats, gloves, ear muffs, galoshes and nose warmers over their costumes.

My elderly neighbor really knows how to celebrate Halloween. She dresses in cobwebs and black satin, lowers her voice, dabs a little ketchup behind both ears and grows nose warts just for the occasion. She always makes trick-or-treaters come inside her small frame home to soak up the smell of warm applesauce cookies and cinnamon cider. I guess when the years start gaining on you and it's been a while since you were a child or had a child, you find ways to bring the children back.

My own children are getting too old for Halloween to be fun any more. They count their Snickers candy bars before they go to sleep and then they wake up to see if Mom has been swiping them while they're dead to the world. My oldest children have even resorted to hiding their entire candy stash from me now. It takes me nearly all night to find their bags and snitch all the best pieces.

My husband and I like to buy the Halloween candy early and make sure it's something we especially like. But for some reason, it always disappears before the big day and we have to go out and buy more.

Don't let anybody tell you Halloween is for kids.