A Halloween Homecoming

jack o lanternHalloween’s always been my favorite holiday. I love the costumes, the candy and the camaraderie. Halloween memories burn bright in my mind.

I grew up in a New York City suburb – exurb at the time – where Halloween went something like this: From toddlerhood to the time I got too cool for it, I’d go to school in costume, come home and head out to the neighborhood parade and costume contest. I’d parade around for the contest and whenever I had a homemade costume — my mom was a great seamstress and designer — I’d place. I never won, but the attention, the cider and cookies all combined to produce some serious joy.

The contest took place before trick-or-treating. When we were small children, the adults would rush home from the costume contest to man their doors for us. We’d all hit the houses, trick-or-treating on our way home. And it was good. We got lots of candy and we were done by dinner. After dinner we’d help Mom and Dad hand out candy, admiring the big kids’ costumes. read more

Halloween Party: THAT Mom


I forgot to take a picture before we ate all the pigs in a blanket.

I forgot to take a picture before we ate all the pigs in a blanket.

Oh my God, I am finally That Mom. You know the one. She’s a Pinterest queen, pinning origami bats and coffee filter spider webs, making masks out of egg cartons. Her kid wears a hand-crocheted full-tailed peacock hat on her head. Not only does she print out family photos, she mounts them in a scrapbook, with colorful adornments enhancing her memories for eternity.

I was never That Mom. I am not the least bit crafty. If my daughter gets me to color with her, we put my picture up on the refrigerator. But after almost seven years as a mom, I’ve found my muse.

This week we had a Halloween party. I love Halloween and I love throwing parties. This was my chance to shine.

Writing is my first love. Cooking is my second. So when it came time to plan the party menu, it was on. I did some brainstorming. I chose the kids’ food out of the Big Four – Chicken nuggets, pizza, hot dogs and mac and cheese. I went with the first three. Then came the hard part: how to make these foods Halloweenie. read more

Becoming Halloweenies

pumpkin sadWhat happened to Halloween? It used to be my favorite holiday. I loved to dress up. As long as I can remember, I’d choose my costume on November 1st of the previous year. All year long I’d plan it, anticipate it. When I was young, I’d ask my mom to make it and she’d plan it along with me. As I got older and lost my mom’s services, I’d have to figure out how to make my costume – no small feat since I don’t sew. And my costumes were good. They were fun. And every year I’d have a great Halloween.

When I was young, there was, of course, trick-or-treating. In junior high and high school, there was egg-and-shaving-cream-sponsored vandalism. During college and beyond, there were parties. Sophomore year of college, my mom made me an “Addams Family” Cousin It costume and once I was on my own, I made an Oompa Loompa costume. In my 30s, the annual Parrot Head convention in Key West would coincide with Halloween. I went as the “Conjunction Junction” guy and Princess Leia in the gold bikini and had a blast, every year. read more

Wardrobe Malfunction


I don’t know what I’m gonna be for Halloween. There, I said it. I’m ashamed, but I said it. Halloween’s my favorite holiday. Not for the creepy stuff. Just for the costumes. Usually I decide on a Halloween costume on Nov. 1 of the previous year, but this year I’ve slacked off. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I was burned by last year’s Halloween.

It started out great. We took a cruise in April and Rose had just gotten a bob haircut. She was wearing her backpack a lot and when we took her to Camp Carnival, the counselors said she looked like Dora the Explorer. Well, a lot of people said she looked like Dora, really. It wasn’t just the counselors. She loved the attention and she loves Dora, so she ate the whole thing up.

When Halloween rolled around, Rose decided to be Dora for Halloween. Excellent, I thought. Orange shorts, pink shirt, purple backpack – done. We wound up switching the shirt to purple because the backpack was already pink, but you get the picture. Easy costume and mom’s happy. Rose does not have the luxury of an expert seamstress at her disposal. My mom designed and sewed crazy elaborate costumes at my whim. She’d always complain that she hated to sew but when she cranked out a shark or a Pillsbury Dough Boy costume you could see she was great at it.

Dora was more my speed. I just bought some Mighty Mendit glue to repair damaged clothing, rather than subject our wardrobe to my sewing “skills.” Naturally I was thrilled when Rose wanted to be Dora. I bought the shorts, we had the shirt and backpack, and Matt made a “Map” to stick out of one of the pockets. I even got her hair cut in a wedge so she’d look more like Dora.

Rose’s school has costume days – several so the kids who don’t come every day get a chance to dress up. So the first dress up day, we dressed her in her Dora outfit, Map at the ready, and brought her to school. We took a few pictures and the school took some and she had a great day. The next day she wanted to wear her Cinderella dress-up dress to school. Fine. She did and she had a wonderful time.

When Halloween rolled around, Matt and I got into our costumes. I was an Old West hooker and he was Sheriff Bullock from Deadwood. He had even grown and tailored his facial hair for the costume. We dressed Christian in a monkey suit, so he could be Dora’s monkey, Boots. Then I said, “Come on, Sweetie. Time to put on your costume.”

“Okay,” Rose said, running to her dress up pile while I picked up her shirt. We met in the hallway, her with a Snow White dress in her hands, and me with her Dora costume.

“I’m gonna be Snow White,” she said.

“WHAT? No, Baby, you’re going to be Dora, remember?”

“Nooo, I want to be Snow Whiiiite!”

“But Sweetie, we said you were gonna be Dora. We got your hair cut and everything. And your brother’s Boots. How is he going to be Boots without Dora?”

“I’m gonna be Snow White!”

I clenched my teeth, “Fine. Put on your costume and we’ll go.”

Snow White -- aargh!

So we went trick-or-treating and she was Snow White. And everyone at the doors said she made a beautiful Snow White. I was so mad. First she decides against Dora and now people praise her for it. This happens when she decides to wear her sun dress in the middle of winter too. I tell her how inappropriate it is, we have a fight, and I say fine, wear it and freeze your butt off. Then everybody she sees tells her what a pretty dress it is, reinforcing her choice. Why doesn’t the world cooperate with me? It takes a village, people. You’re making me look like the village idiot.

This year, Rose wanted to be Ariel, the Little Mermaid, “with the tail.” I bought her the costume, but I’m worried. On the first dress-up day at school, she wore her costume. I didn’t even have my phone to take a picture but she was adorable and very happily dressed up. The second costume day, she told me she wanted to wear regular clothes. I said okay, and she said she didn’t want to wear a costume anymore. Trouble, I thought.

“What about Halloween on Monday, Sweetie? That’s another costume day and you have to get dressed up to go trick-or-treating,” I said hopefully.

“I just want to wear regular clothes,” she said. Crap.

Who’d have thought that having a kid would ruin Halloween? I thought it was going to be fun. She’d be all cute in her outfit and we’d take her trick or treating. I’d inspect the apples for razors and she’d flit around on a sugar high. Halloween the way it’s supposed to be. At least now we live in a trick-or-treating neighborhood. For Rose’s first Halloween we walked for blocks and blocks looking for friendly houses and we only got to about three. And here everyone goes into town and trick-or-treats at the shops downtown. I’m a Halloween purist. You trick or treat in your neighborhood and that’s what we’re going to do.

I don’t know what to expect from Rose this Halloween, and I’ve made up my mind not to care if she doesn’t wear her 30-dollar-outfit-that-I-bought-with-a-gift-card-that-was-supposed-to-be-for-me-because-I-didn’t-have-enough-money-that-day. No, I won’t care.

I’ve invited some families to join us for trick-or-treating and more importantly, drinks. Because if I’m gonna get through this Halloween, I’m going to need some help. I am looking forward to the company and the drinks and I’ve decided I’ll focus on that instead of costumes. I do have my Old West hooker costume to drag out in case I want to dress up. I know I’ll get the urge that day. But this year I’m going to ignore my Halloween control issues and just let kids be kids.