Halloween was yesterday and today I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on some of the quirky and challenging things that make me me. In particular the things that come out in high-stakes situations that I value deeply. It’s no secret that I love Halloween. It’s second only to Christmas (and when I was a child it might have actually been first). My mom poured love into every homemade costume, my dad took us trick-or-treating from block to block until late into the night (it always felt like 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. but maybe times have changed? Or maybe 8:00 feels a lot like 10:00 at the end of October when you’re a kid).
I still want to squeeze every bit of magic out of Halloween and I want to pass my love of the magic on to our kids. Every year I pull off the costumes (with a lot of help from my parents) and we get out there and it’s wonderful, but every year I also feel rushed and stressed out and worried about the minutes ticking by as houses run out of candy and one-by-one turn off their porch lights. I don’t know why, but no amount of planning seems to ever result in it not feeling like an impossible scramble. Part of it is that I over-commit myself. Yesterday I worked a half-day in the morning, ran to the hardware store to buy glue to finish the foam in the boys’ helmets, volunteered to help out in Jonah’s classroom for the costume parade and party in the afternoon (after volunteering to bake four dozen cookies the night before), had to bring Jonah home from school at 3:50, prepare and bake mummy dogs for a pre-trick-or-treat dinner party with friends, send Kristin to pick up the twins from preschool after her meeting ended at 4:30 (what monster schedules that on Halloween??), get three kids in costumes (with Kristin by that point, and she did most of that), and get to our friends’ house by 5:00 (we didn’t – not even close).
We had three different sets of friends invite us to trick-or-treat with them, and having to decline any invite feels like such a bummer because it’s Halloween and it’s fun and it’s collective! That’s the thing about Halloween – the magic only happens through collective participation. Without a lot of people committing to buy/make the costumes and hand out treats and decorate their houses and carve pumpkins and play Thriller from the bushes and hang up spiderwebs there is no Halloween magic. And for folks with privilege like us and our neighbors, that also means welcoming kids from neighborhoods that don’t have the means or safety to provide those things, and sharing the magic with them.
But to me, the celebration feels limited to an awfully short window. A window in which a whole lot of privilege is required to even begin to fit your participation in. Not everyone can take the afternoon off from work, feed the kids and get them dressed, and hit the sidewalks with their kids by 5:00 p.m. We were out a bit later than some, and at a certain point I realized that most of the white kids had gone home even though there were still tons of kids in costume going from house to house. I suspect that’s not because the white kids were obeying some unspoken trick-or-treat-hours rule, but more likely because they had the privilege to begin their adventures early. I have tremendous privilege, and even I could barely pull it together in time. By the time we made it to our usual trick-or-treat neighborhood, houses were already turning their lights off and it was maybe 7:00. But I wanted to cheer for the houses that kept the party going for all of the kids who were still out late, who maybe didn’t get there at 5:00. The headless butler handing out candy next to a coffin, for one.
I was a ball of stress on and off throughout the night every time I worried that we were running late or that we were going to miss out on some part of the magic. I don’t know how to make myself care less about these things, or even if I should care less. I love showing the kids what it looks like when you’re passionate about something and it makes the work that you put into it worthwhile. I don’t really know how to tone it down, but I also know that when I’m yelling and freaking out trying to get us out of the house that it’s not fun for anyone, and despite my obsessive need to plan far in advance and map out the time needed, nothing seems to prevent the scramble and the stress. I don’t have the answer yet, but I plan to spend some time thinking about it.
But enough about that, and on to the costumes. Last year when the boys were robots I ran across a great idea for a futuristic space family. I pinned it because I had a feeling I’d want to use it eventually. I don’t even remember how I sold it to the boys this year but I don’t think that it took much work (it probably had everything to do with the space guns).
The kids all love catalogs and early on Vivi picked out a mermaid costume from the Hanna Andersson catalog. But I don’t buy costumes, I make them, and the skirt was $90 so I figured we could make something similar. Vivi’s skirt was organza and felt and it cost roughly $10 to make. The PJs underneath were from Amazon so they cost far less than the real thing. To make her look more like a mermaid, my mom and I decided to make barrettes and a necklace from shells and fake plants that looked like seaweed. The wig was her crowning glory, since she dreams of having long hair (it did end up in a ponytail at some point because her arms kept getting tangled in it).
For the boys, we followed the instructions in the other blog post pretty closely, with a few exceptions. We covered one-piece PJs in duct tape (which takes far longer than you might expect, and is more challenging than you might expect because duct tape doesn’t want to adhere to fabric, especially fleece). I ended up taping them into their costumes because it wanted to peel off around the zipper. We bought silver glitter rain boots early in October because they both needed them anyway so it was a worthwhile purchase, the guns are from Amazon (I’m pretty sure I just typed in “space gun toy” and ended up buying the same one as the original post), the jet packs are repurposed from last year’s robot costumes, but this time with grey ribbon as backpack straps (I taped them to a square of grey felt and sewed the straps onto the felt).
I decided to make a change to the helmets. I could have purchased the acrylic globes that the original creator used but they were pricey, would have involved using a Dremel (which I don’t own), and I wasn’t entirely sure that the boys would even wear them if I tried it. Late in the process, after deciding that deely-boppers were an inadequate alternative, I decided to try paper mache. I’d never done it before, so my mom played a big role here. I bought 12″ balloons and we covered them in roughly three layers of paper mache (allowing each layer to dry overnight before adding the next).
We popped the balloons and then spent WAY too much time trying to figure out how large to cut the head openings and where and how to cut the face openings. They wobbled around a lot and Jude didn’t like it when the bottom touched his shoulders, so we put thick foam in the very top and also along the back to stabilize them and keep them upright. It didn’t stop Jude’s helmet from spinning around on his head all night long (with many tripping crises narrowly averted) but the boys wore them and that felt like a huge win. Had we done some sort of a chest plate it may have prevented the spinning, so I recommend that if you’re trying it. Oh, and I spray painted them metallic silver and love the way that they turned out.
Twenty-four hours later I feel pretty good about our Halloween, but I also feel like it will always be a search for ways to reduce stress and stay focused on the joy. More planning doesn’t always result in less worry, but it does tend to be my m.o. Scrambling or not, the kids had fun, and that’s what it’s all about. I have to give special credit to Vivi because she was all in when it came to trick-or-treating this year. When the boys were ready to call it a night she insisted that we keep going; she wanted to fill her bucket to the top with candy. I had so much fun hitting an extra block or so with her on her own. I think she may have already caught the Halloween bug.