Halloween 2022: Descendants (and a sorcerer)

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I’ve written anything here. I don’t have a good excuse, except that we listened to a podcast that dug into the reality that not getting enough sleep will kill you and I started going to bed a whole lot earlier. I used to stay up and write until midnight; now I go to bed when the kids go to bed.

There’s been no shortage of photo documentation of our days, but a whole year of things has passed without me writing about it. I’m going to give myself some grace and start here, at Halloween, and see where things go.

Vivienne pointed out that she’s often the first of us to decide what she wants to be for Halloween, and I do think she’s right about that. She’s been responsible for setting the theme the last few years. To be clear, I don’t insist on or even really push for a family theme; I know how improbable that is with such a wide variety of interests and I want Halloween to be what the kids want it to be. But we’ve gotten lucky the past couple of years and it worked out again this year. Well, OK, to be honest Jude is never on theme, but sometimes he’s close enough that I can pretend he’s on theme. Two years ago we all did Neverending Story and he wanted to be an Earth Giant from Frozen 2, but that was awfully close to the Rock Biter, and last year we all did Harry Potter and he wanted to be a made up spider by the name of “Lightning Spider” but it was easy to pretend he was Aragog. This year all I can say is, “Surely there’s some sort of invisible sorcerer on the Isle of the Lost, right?”

Vivienne wanted to be Mal from Descendants. I hadn’t seen any of the movies and when I looked the character up I immediately thought, “there’s no way I can make that better or for less, so let’s just buy the costume.” I hate the idea of just buying the costume, but it was what she wanted to be. But then Jonah said that if Vivienne was being Mal, maybe he’d be Jay. It turns out you can’t buy a Jay costume, so now I had to think about how to make one. As I brainstormed this it occurred to me that if two kids were being Descendants characters, maybe I should join them (I think I’d seen a movie or two by this point), and then Kristin asked who she could be, and we had a theme. I would be Uma, Kristin would be Hades, and Jude was a character of his own creation with a specific costume in mind.

I decided to search thrift stores for faux leather moto gear, and ended up finding two jackets and a vest on Poshmark. All of them were pure black to start. I learned that you can paint faux leather with basic acrylic craft paint and that you can put studs on without any special tools (with only one or two stabbed fingertips in the process). I honestly had SO MUCH FUN making these jackets.

I used a couple of different colors of green color-shift metallic paint, plus gold, and hot glued beads onto my Uma jacket to create the textured sequin look on hers. It was time consuming, but surprisingly meditative.

All of the pieces were a little imperfect (the Uma and Hades jackets actually both arrived falling apart, chunks falling off, total garbage, but the kids said, “that’s OK, everything on the Isle is supposed to be that way!”). Realism for the win, I guess? I wasn’t totally happy with the way the yellow came out on Jonah’s Jay vest, but he loved it and that’s all that matters. Originally I had it a much closer color to the original, but he wanted it warmer and I feel like it ended up a little nacho cheese, but whatever. He also really wanted the cobra on the back, and I was not at all confident about hand painting a cobra. I couldn’t find an affordable stencil and don’t own a Cricut, so in the end I decided to make my own stencil by printing the image, putting it into a plastic page protector, tracing it with a sharpie and then using an x-acto knife to cut it out. It wasn’t perfect, but it absolutely did the trick. I touched it up after the fact and he loved it.

I did Hades last, and you might have assumed I would have been tired of all of this by now but I wasn’t; I LOVED doing this Hades jacket. The jacket we bought had no studs, and we needed it to have a lot of studs. I bought two different sizes/shapes on Amazon and it was slow going, but Vivienne and I put them on by hand. The large ones were easy, the tiny ones were a giant pain, but I was really happy with how it turned out.

After the studs were done, I got to paint the details. Lost souls, blue flames, and the words “Soul Stealer” across the back. It was tons of fun.

Jude’s costume was simple but it may have been the most challenging. For some reason I could not figure out how to make an easy hooded cape. I like sewing, but I am am amateur. We bought the morph suit, but he specifically wanted a hooded cape with stars/constellations on it. I found the perfect velvet and my mom bought a pretty purple satin lining, but when my mom came over one weekend to help me make the cape we spent HOURS searching online for a tutorial that felt reasonable. Finally my dad came over and joined the search and we eventually found a no-sew variety and merged it with something slightly more complex and pulled it together. I won’t even pretend to be able to teach you how to make a cape; this isn’t that blog post.

He also wanted the cape to be lit, and fortunately I had several strings of mini-lights in a closet. I poked holes in the fabric and wove the wires through between the cape and the lining. Unfortunately when he wore it to school on Halloween some kid stepped on the battery box and ripped it off, so on Halloween eve I had to re-string the whole thing with a new light strand in time for trick-or-treating. I added a pocket for the battery box this time.

I think that Jonah looked just like Jay, especially with his long hair.

I found moto-leggings at Goodwill and painted them the same colors as the jacket to make them more authentic (but it took about a dozen coats because acrylic paint just soaks into black fabric). I decided to add the pirate hat from Decendants 2 because I felt like it completed the character, and had fun adding gold trim and seashells and crab claws to embellish it. I also made a gold shell necklace and shell earrings because the kids insisted that I needed them.

And Hades – I think she nailed it. We had a hard time getting the wig to stay in a mohawk, but I think we got the general idea. I repurposed fabric from Jonah’s dementor costume to make a black dress/toga of sorts.

Vivi expressed a little disappointment that her costume was the only one that I didn’t make by hand, but it seemed like she felt entirely confident and excited about it by Halloween. She loved her wig, and I did end up having to do a little sewing to take in her leggings because they were way too wide. I think she looked great.

My parents and my sister said that they think this is my best year so far. There are so many costumes that I’m proud of looking back, but this year sure was a lot of fun.

Christmas break 2020

Today was the first day back to work and school following the break, and absolutely no one felt ready. Actually, I thought that I was at peace with it and Kristin thought that it would be awful, but then today came and went and Kristin was celebrating the fact that she got through the day and it wasn’t terrible, and I on the other hand found myself really craving the freedom to sit in front of a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle for hours (the one that I started several days ago and have yet to finish). The kids moaned about school but actually seemed fine when the time came (Jonah actually seemed very enthusiastic about a new student teacher in his class when he learned that they share a love for the Harry Potter books).

Around 2:30 this afternoon Jonah asked me to build a fire because he wanted to work on LEGOs in front of it, and Jude and Vivi curled up with their audiobooks and I could tell that we were all wishing we had a little more unstructured time left.

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On Christmas, time, and a complicated relationship with belongings

I’ve been feeling more grinchy than usual this season and I’m not really sure why; I love Christmas. Last year I remember feeling very on top of all of my prep: I had ample gift ideas for everyone, some of my shopping was done and my Christmas cards were ready to mail by Thanksgiving weekend. This year I feel very behind the curve despite having put up our tree on November 27th. I’ve felt guilty and overwhelmed by the things I have yet to do, and a part of me feels like there’s no good excuse. It’s not as if we’ve been busy going anywhere or doing anything. Kristin wisely pointed out that I also have absolutely no alone time, and that puts a serious crimp in my ability to think and plan and feel inspired. I put the lights up on the roofline in early November because it was warm out, but somehow it still feels like I’m moving through something viscous.

Thinking about everything I have yet to do has felt overwhelming rather than exciting. Vivienne has been dying to bake cookies and as we approached this weekend (when I’d promised to do it) it just felt like a messy chore on my to-do list rather than a fun seasonal tradition. Then I felt guilty and awful for feeling that way and the spiral deepened.

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Halloween 2020 – The Neverending Story

2020 has clearly been the spookiest year even without embellishment, but the thought of Halloween not happening this year because of COVID was pretty crushing for me. Halloween was my favorite holiday growing up, and it could be argued that I’ve carried more traditions down for that holiday than for any others. For awhile it seemed like trick-or-treating might not happen, but I began costumes in earnest in September because I needed to hang onto something.

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Optical Illusion DIY Valentines


For the last year or so I’ve enjoyed making the kids’ valentines for school. I realize the kids who will receive these don’t care one bit that they’re DIY. In fact, last year some asshole kindergartener told Jonah that he didn’t like his because they didn’t include candy. You know what, you ungrateful twit? None of the valentines I got from classmates in elementary school involved candy. That’s not a prerequisite. I realize that sounds like a segue into…”so this year we included lollipops…” but it really had nothing to do with that. I had a total of two fun DIY valentine ideas (both inspired by the same blogger) and this is the second one. Next year I may be fresh out of ideas. Continue reading

Creative energy – holiday edition

Kristin often seems bewildered by my desire to be doing something so much of the time. It’s not as if we have oodles of time to spare, but I get fidgety quickly when I have too much time and nothing to fill it. Not only that, but I’ve discovered that time actually seems to slow down a bit when I’m doing something creative. I recently wrapped up a photo editing class and have been excited to dive into some new things.

Last weekend I had all sorts of creative plans but wasn’t sure any of them would pan out the way I’d envisioned. This time of year one of my favorite things is always taking and choosing a photo and designing our Christmas cards. My sister and I always share notes and screenshots and plans because we’re equally bonkers when it comes to early holiday planning, and because we’ve both mailed cards without fail for years and years. Hers is always one I’m most excited to receive, because I know she loves the whole thing as much as I do. A month ago we attempted family photos when they were in town staying with my parents, but we had marginally uncooperative kids and finicky weather that weekend and nothing spectacular came of it. Continue reading

Halloween 2019

I was so on top of Halloween this year. I knew that I was going to have more than usual on my plate this month (I promise to write about Pecha Kucha soon, because it was amazing), so I got an early start and finished a couple of weeks early. The weather forecast for Halloween isn’t looking good but today was gorgeous, so I told the kids that I wanted to take costume photos today just in case it’s pouring on Thursday. Continue reading

For all of the mothers in our village

Mother’s Day isn’t a holiday that we often mark with huge fanfare or extraordinary plans, mostly due to the fact that the adults in this family are both mothers and our idea of a great day involves more relaxing and less planning for someone else. That said, motherhood is a deeply important part of my identity; probably the most important part, so I do a lot of reflecting this time of year on how grateful I am to be living this life. Continue reading

Everyday magic

Easter weekend arrived and it feels like spring is finally here. Saturday was full of all kinds of beauty, most of which I didn’t photograph. We started the day with Jonah and I heading off to an Earth Day 5K at the Nature Center. We did it in celebration of his accomplishment of having completed a ten minute run in gym class. I knew that we would likely walk most of it, and we walked nearly all of it, but to my surprise he never complained and actually told me how much fun he was having more than once.

We stopped by the neighborhood hardware store on the way back home and they gave Jonah a cheap plastic kite. He was thrilled and wanted to try it out immediately, so I warned him that sometimes cheap plastic kites don’t work all that well and don’t last a terribly long time, but we walked over to the schoolyard to give it a try. Despite my skepticism, it actually flew quite well and he was over the moon. It was so much fun watching him run back and forth with it (which honestly amazed me after a 5K). Continue reading