Wardrobe Malfunction

D-d-d-d-de-Dora!

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.

Book Excerpt: The Stick Game

That’s it! The gold glow rising from the green depths – my quarry. I hold my nose and jump in. I hear two more splashes behind me, but I’m the first one down. Where is it? All I can see is green. Oh, wait, there it is! I reach out, feel its smooth wood. Got it! Clutching it like the Olympic torch, my fist breaks the surface before I do, but everyone sees. I got the stick!

I swim around to the ladder, climb up on the dock, dripping on the turf rug, and we start again. This time I get to take it down. Hmm, dive or pin drop? Pin drops take you deeper. Standing at the edge of the dock, facing the beach, I hold the stick in one hand, plaster my hands to my thighs for optimum aquadynamics, and drop, pointing my toes straight down. I feel the bubbles around me and when the water feels coldest, I let go. I float up and hang on the dock, looking up at the row of expectant faces. I pull myself to the ladder and climb up. It’s my turn to watch.

Donna’s whole body twitches. She spots it, dives; a few more kids jump after her, and she’s got it. Donna’s the best swimmer in our lake. She always beat me when we raced on Family Day, and I always admired how strong and swift she was in the water. The lake goes right up to her backyard, so she swims all the time, without a lifeguard. We live across the street from the lake. My mom always tells my dad we should have gotten a house on the lake, and he says “Oh, Viki, please, you know how expensive that would be?” and waves her away.

Everyone goes to the beach anyway. We walk down the road in our flip-flops, rolling my big inner tube in front of us, past Donna’s house, past Karen’s, past the people who live next to the beach but never go. We see the whole neighborhood there, grownups and all. Donna and her sisters, Cynthia, Rob, Alison, Dan. Cathi and I get there and we wade to our knees and then jump into the cold. But it’s not cold for long, and with the sun warming our faces, it always feels good to be in the water. When my cousins visit and we take them down here, they blow air out their noses and say the lake smells. It does. It smells like lake. Green, cool, and wet. We like it.

And then we swim out to the dock and play The Stick Game. We use an ice cream stick or an Italian Ice spoon, someone takes it down, and we go after it. Whoever gets it takes it down next. We play all day, or until we hear the bells.

“Jing Jing! Jing Jing!” Everyone runs for the edge, the front of the dock dips almost to the water but then everyone dives in and heads toward the beach. White wakes can’t catch up with us as we race for shore. We ransack our pockets or beg our parents and run up the ramp to wait outside the white truck on the sizzling pavement. We’re pretty cool from swimming but sometimes someone will order a Bomb Pop, Fun Dip, Bottle Caps, a Snow Cone and a Chocolate Éclair and the water under our feet will get hot, burn off and then we all jump from foot to foot, waiting for our Toasted Almond or Strawberry Shortcake and candy.

One by one, we walk down the paved sandy ramp, hands clutching bundles of ice cream and candy, we sit on our towels to eat. No one swims while the ice cream man visits or for a half hour after, because we’ll get cramps and drown. That’s when the moms put their babies in the water, in front of the yellow rope with the blue and white floats. Sometimes the grownups swim then. My dad swims across the lake and back. But we all sit on the beach, in twos and threes, licking orange push ups until we see that plastic Fred Flintstone or Yogi Bear or bite the chocolate off Nutty Buddies as we drip dry.

When our ice cream’s gone, we open our candy. Candy doesn’t count toward our half hour out of the water, so we eat while we wait. I have a purple ring pop and Cathi’s got giant Sweet tarts – the chewy kind. Chews

“What days are you going to the fair?”

“I think Thursday and Saturday. My dad wants to go to the movies on Friday.”

“We’re going Saturday too. Maybe you can come with us.”

“I’ll ask.”

At the fair, it’ll be me and Cathi or me and Alison, Rob will walk around with his friends, Cynthia with the stuck-up pretty girls, Donna and Corinne with their sisters. Same thing at school, except for Donna and Corinne. They’re in different grades, so they split up at school.

Then our half hour’s over. One by one, two by two, we throw our trash in the can and head straight for the water. When we get to the dock, Rob says he had a cherry Italian Ice, so we’ve got a new stick, stained pink. Spoons are the best sticks — fat and easiest to see. It’s his stick, so he dives off the dock and takes it down.

Kids are Fun?

“Do you have kids?” our neighbor asked us four years ago, as he cast his line off the neighborhood pier.

 “No,” my husband said.

“They’re…fun,” he said as he caught his four-year-old daughter mid-run and swung her around.

 Fun? Really? I had no idea kids were fun. I knew they meant work, responsibility and loss of freedom, but I never heard that they were fun. In my life up until that moment I thought kids were just an enormous burden that people endure because they love them, not a new form of entertainment.

 But now that I’m a mom I realize he was right. They do entertain. They cry, spit up, scratch, kick and throw tantrums in the aisle at Safeway, but they also make us laugh, love and rejoice in the simplest things.

 My 2-year-old daughter, Rose, is funnier than I am and she doesn’t even try. She’s quite the chatterbox but sometimes her pronunciation is a little bit off. For example, “big truck” sounds like “big (another name for a rooster).” You should see us when we’re out at the supermarket and they get a delivery. “Yes, Honey, that IS a big truck. It is most certainly a truck. No question about it, it’s a truck.” “Clock” sounds just like truck.

 “Fork” comes out as another word for making love and “Spongebob” comes out “butt ‘fork.’” You would think these terms would only come up at home but she uses them in public all the time, whenever we see a Spongebob doll or go to a restaurant. “I want a fork!” plays really well with the diners at the next table. “Here’s your FORK, sweetie.” They’re still reeling from when she said “I want to ‘sit,’” which sounds like another word for poop.  Fortunately for me, I buff with the social Turtle Wax  that lets embarrassing behavior roll off my back.  

When I was pregnant, I discussed kids with a coworker who had three and one on the way. He told me that once we had kids, we’d never sleep again but we would think the loss was totally worth it.

 We gave up a lot once we had Rose – more than we expected. We moved from Maryland to Seattle when I was seven months pregnant and when she came along, we really understood why people live close to their families. My husband’s mother came out for a week to help us, and she even babysat one night so we could go out but after she left, there was no one to ask for help. We didn’t go out for about five months, when we exchanged babysitting with a mom I had befriended.

 We used to go to Key West every year for the Parrot Head  convention. We went three years in a row, and I’d gone two years by myself before I met my husband. We haven’t gone since 2006. We planned to, even registered, in 2007, but we couldn’t because I was too pregnant to fly. And then we kept saying we’d bring Rose to Key West but we haven’t yet.

The only restaurants we frequent now offer balloons and crayons at the door. The weird liquor laws in Washington prohibit us from bringing Rose almost anywhere adults gather. I can see it now that she runs around and wreaks havoc, but what about when she was a baby, strapped to my chest all the time? Did they worry the bartenders might mistakenly serve her?  

 And though Rose was always a good sleeper, she’s still a kid and every day at 7:30, weekend or not, she’s crying, “Mommy, where ARE you?” My husband and I each take her one morning on the weekends, but this week we were all sick, and even though we didn’t have to work, neither of us could not get an extra minute of the sleep we desperately needed. 

 But my neighbor was right. Kids are fun. It’s just not the same fun.

 While not as exciting as the gossip and occasional boobies we were used to at parties, there’s always drama: tantrums, spontaneous shrieking and even nudity, just on a much smaller scale.

 Though we don’t see people as much, we have a constant companion who facilitates spontaneous conversations with strangers wherever we go.  

 We don’t vacation to sexy destinations anymore but we do fun things together more frequently. We go to petting zoos, u-pick farms, playgrounds, farmer’s markets, pools and local parks. We love watching her explore, and let’s face it, we need to keep her happy because if she’s not, she can make us miserable.

And we rejoice too, more than we ever have. Rose let go of the bed and took her first steps the day before my 40th birthday and it was the best gift I ever got. When she eats or drinks something now she declares it “Delicious!” It’s really much funnier when you’re her mom but that’s the thing—it makes us laugh and we’re proud at the same time. The other day she spontaneously sang all of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” at the dinner table and it blew us away.

 No dates, no vacations, no happy hours and no sleep. Drama, company, family fun and pride. My neighbor, my coworker, and everyone who said we’d never be the same – they were all right. Nothing will ever be the same and we wouldn’t want anything to be different.