All Hallows Eve (aka) My Favorite Day Of The Year

If you know me, you know I love Halloween.

If you don’t know me, I’ll probably end up sharing this tidbit with you long before it’s conversationally relevant or seasonally appropriate.

Like, when work functions demand you play that awkward game where everyone has to “share something unexpected with the group.” My fallback tends to be, “Halloween is my favorite day of the year.” My birthday is in early November, but I truly have no interest in it, (and I’m not just saying that in a whiny way where I really expect you to make a big deal out of my bday even though I swear I don’t care). So, I request that anyone who really loves me should participate in Halloween instead. Just pretend October 31st is my real birthday and, instead of presents, wrap yourself up in a costume of some sort and come on over!

Ridiculous? Probably. But for some reason, the ability to get dressed up in a random costume and eat copious amounts of chocolate, or as an adult, consume mass amounts of liquor, is incredibly appealing to me!

The biggest nerd flag I fly is that I’m a sucker for anything that feels magical. And I mean, Harry Potter Hogwarts magical, not “what card am I holding?”  pull a rabbit out of a hat magic. When someday my kid asks me if I believe in witches and wizards and unicorns and flying hippogriffs, I won’t have to hesitate when saying, yes.

But in the essence of not embarrassing myself or those around me, I try to limit this excitement and childlike obsession to 1 month a year when it is somewhat accepted by society. Enter, All Hallows Eve.

Dressing up is a big deal. It’s not enough just to slip on a pair of cat ears or a clown nose and call it a day. I have extreme appreciation for the kind of creative detail and planning that goes into the perfect Halloween costume, and will always have a big soft spot in my heart for those who go down the rabbit hole with me on this occasion.

That being said – I feel a certain amount of stress over choosing the perfect costume. One that is crafted as much by hand as possible, with the right amount of clever mixed in with pop culture, immersion-blended with some unique imagination. But, most importantly, does not have the word “sexy” in front of its name. You are not a “sexy” pirate, or a “sexy” Rainbow Bright Doll, or a “sexy” nun. These things are counterintuitive and wrong and I will not stand for it! (whew!)

And so, in honor of the upcoming occasion, (and because I’ve yet to figure mine out this year and I need some inspiration) I give you…

My top 10 costumes:

10. A (Good) Witch: Notable only because it was the first costume I can remember wearing and the first birthday I celebrated in Halloween-style. I was turning 3 and all the kids dressed up in costumes to attend. I was decked out in a perfectly ragged witch costume, though apparently I was vehemently adamant to anyone that would listen that I was a GOOD witch, and rung in my new year with a pumpkin shaped cookie cake. My mom used chocolate chips to create a smiling jackolantern face, and I’m thinking that I’d be pretty damn pleased if someone wanted to make me that exact same cake every birthday for the rest of my life!

9. 70’s Rollerskater: I’m convinced this was a clever costume for 2 reasons:

First, because I found the perfect pair of old-school roller-skates in a thrift store. They were shiny white with neon orange wheels, and I paired them with expertly feathered hair, ill-advised skin-toned tights and a violently short pair of polyester track shorts that I wish I could say were actually from the 70’s, but were really from Abercrombie and Fitch.

Second, this was the first year I lived in Chicago and I kept those death-trap roller skates on ALL NIGHT. I mean, this girl maneuvered them in and out of bars with beer soaked floors, cabs that lurched us through the night and straight into 6” deep rain puddles and what had to be the worlds steepest climb of apartment stairs.

I managed to stay on my feet and off my ass for 99% of the evening, and didn’t wimp out even when my ankles were screaming “UNCLE!” Sometimes costumes take real dedication to pull off, and a night spent on 8 little wheels proved that.

8. 80’s Aerobicizer: Originally I had intended for my costume to be Olivia Newton John in Xanadu, but that required more rollerskates and I just wasn’t up for it. So I went with Olivia Newton John in Let’s Get Physical instead. (Though even that is kind of a mouthful, so 80’s Aerobics dancer it is.)

olivia-newton-john_in_physical-01

oh, OLJ, this was a risky move

And while the key costume items mainly consisted of a sweatband and leg warmers, the real kicker was the assless leotard. I SWEAR I wore two pairs of opaque tights underneath! Oh, and I was 24 not, like, 8 when I wore this. Though, now that I think of it, a Little Miss Sunshine costume would be pretty amazing!

7. Jem & The Rockers: We’re just moving right along with an 80’s theme, huh? Well, this was when I was about 8 and my mom concocted a brilliant fuchsia shredded dress that sure gave that little animated rockstar a run for her money! Then my Aunt surprised me with a homemade cardboard guitar that was completely covered in pink glitter. I might have cried 8 year old girl tears of joy!

6. Elvis: Ok, I have never dressed as Elvis myself. But last year that’s how we decked out our then 18 month old, and it was kind of an amazing homemade feat. I usually wouldn’t brag, but take a look for yourself and let me know if you think this earns me a little mommy pride?

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enter, The King!

5. A Piece of Pizza: Pizza Hut pizza, to be exact. Including a real, cardboard pizza box with a hole in it as my hat. Clearly as a 5th grader I was not at all concerned with what people thought of me, because there might have been some questions when the elementary school parade was taking place and, mixed in with all the princesses and pirates and superheroes, was one random, awkward slice of pepperoni pie. This oversize triangle even had sad little strips of felt mozzarella cheese hanging from it’s belly. Truly delicious.

4. Ziggy Stardust: So, in addition to my intense love for Halloween, I also have a little obsession with David Bowie. And not even for the right reasons! I shamefully didn’t learn to love his music until I was in my 20’s. My crush with this man started much earlier (and this will come up later in the countdown) when I saw The Labyrinth for the first time, but has extended since then. So I was honored to pay proper homage to Bowie’s incredible, glam-rock, androgynous alter ego.

ziggy

Oy vey.

3. Super Jew: I still stand by the fact that one of the easiest costumes to concoct on short notice is that of a homemade superhero. Dawn a ski mask, tie a sheet around your neck, grab a plunger as your weapon and, TADA! Creepy Toilet Man is here!

So my sophomore year of college I decided to craft my costume around an oversize Jewish star necklace an Israeli friend had bestowed upon me. My clever roommate Audrey deemed it the “Super Jew Necklace” and even non-Jew friends used to borrow it sometimes for a little extra power. I paired it with head and wristbands bedazzled with glittering jewish stars and a cape that I believe said, “The Chosen One”. No one at the parties we attended that night had any idea what I was dressed as.

2. Chippendales Dancer: Sometimes I want to copycat this group costume because it was that excellent. I mean—3 girls wearing flesh colored t-shirts under plastic man-body chests, with penciled-in facial hair and sock stuffed pants—it was the perfect blend of innovative, hilarious and totally creepster. We were invited to do “shows” on the tops of every bar we visited, and in lieu of dollar bills we accepted free drinks. My children are going to be VERY embarrassed someday when these pictures resurface.

1. The Goblin King: This is the yet-to-be costume. The ultimate of all costumes that will require months of planning and practice in order to make it right. And if you haven’t watched The Labyrinth yet, lemme tell ya, you’re missing a magical musical Jim Henson tale with a lot of puppet goblins and weird M.C. Escher stairs. Sounds pretty awesome, right??

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I didn’t say it was pretty, just that it was my favorite.

One fine October 31st, I’ll dawn my intricately homemade Goblin King costume and know that it will never get better than this. My favorite movie character on my favorite day of the year. Eating too much candy, drinking too much spiked cider and watching my kid start his own top ten list of costumes to adore and rehash at length someday:)

The Search Is On

How did we exist before the invention of Google? I mean, did we really get all of our questions answered by parents, librarians, store clerks or the smart looking guy waiting at the train stop? And then you were under the blatant scrutiny of the question answerer to openly judge you for whatever question you, the asker, were posing. Therefore causing an excess of personal editing and a general loss of the knowledge you were seeking.

 With Google at my fingertips, I have an extensive—and private!!!—tool at my disposal to get all manner of random questions answered instantly. Looking over the search history on my computer is a very intimate, albeit slanted, visual of what is going on at my head at any given time. Slightly alarming? I’ll let you be the judge.

  • How many calories are in a Cadbury Egg?

Yes, yes. I know that Easter is over. But this delectable treat is delicious year-round. In fact, in college my mom used to buy Cadbury Eggs in bulk to store in her freezer so that she could send them to me during finals. I tell ya—pretty motivational studying material! (Thanks, mom! xoxo) But when you’re sitting at your desk, giving in to a 3pm chocolate craving, it’s helpful to know how many calories you’re in for, if only to dissuade yourself from repeating the same (wonderful) mistake the following day(s).

  • Couch cleaning tips

Upon moving into our new house, one of the immediate decisions made was that our current sofa and chaise should be banished to the basement. They were the first we had ever purchased as “adults” living in Chicago, and had since seen their fair share of hard living.

Multiple overnight sofa sleepovers? Check.

Late night sessions of Rock Band? Check.

Comfortable participant in a stadium seating experiment? Check, and success for Superbowl XXXVIII!

These couches were also the mainstay of our foray into parenthood, only further mushing the almost non-existent stuffing, and adding new stains of the formula, banana and apple sauce variety.

Midnight sessions of VH1 videos while new baby didn’t sleep? Check.

Father and son naps during weekend golf tournaments? Check.

Subsequent fort, trampoline and lemme-show-you-how-many-times-I-can-climb-back-and-forth-over-this-sofa game? Every chance the kiddo got.

 But even though it’s being banished to the basement, I’d still like it to at least appear presentable to the untrained eye. What did I find out was one of the best tips to clean off dirt and stains? Baby wipes. How appropriate.

  • How do you change your actual home address?

I’m not talking about submitting a form to the Postal Service telling them that I moved from one place to another and need to get my mail. I’m talking about the actual, physical address written on my door. I don’t want it anymore. After a burst pipe, leaking toilets, holes in my ceilings, nails driven into other pipes and hail damage that is going to cost us a new roof, I’m a little worried that my house is cursed. It doesn’t help that 666 is in the address.

Now, I’m not really a superstitious person, but I’m also not going to say that I DON’T believe in ghosts because then I’m just gonna end up with some whiny, old, misplaced spirit moaning through my hallways. So, here we are, not even 6 weeks into our new place and the hits won’t stop coming. We’re beat up and scared of the elements and basically tiptoeing around a house that supposedly passed it’s inspection with flying colors. Could switching my address to 668 change the chakra or juju or whatever is inhabiting the walls of this building? I don’t know, but I’m hell bent to try.

  • Why do guys wear wood bracelets?

This was a bit of a useless search, as I don’t think there is a valid answer that exists online (or in nature), but I really wondered if it was a sudden fashion trend I wasn’t aware of? Several times in the past few weeks I’ve encountered grown men wearing elastic, wood-beaded bracelets. The kind you’d maybe see on college kids returning from spring break in addition to the cliche pooka shell necklace.

 My husband had one of those necklaces when we met. He wore it religiously and had a tan line from it on the back of his neck. At first I tried to pretend it was cool because, let’s be real, I was already trying to stalk him into dating me. But once that initial rope, I mean connection, was cinched, I prayed daily that the necklace would “accidentally” snag on his coat or my hand…or a pair of errant scissors. So this random resurgence of cheesy tropical jewelry on men is baffling to me. Especially when it’s paired with pressed chino’s and an IZOD button-up. What kind of regge-prep-school is this place I now live??

  • How much should a 20 month old be eating?

I know this certainly varies by child, but mine seems to be training for a future career as a professional eater. He’s constantly walking around saying, “eat” “eat” even if he just finished a meal. The other night we watched him put away a veggie patty, hot dog, carrots, broccoli, rice, two pieces of string cheese, some graham crackers and two cups of milk. You’d think he was on some sort of bender after a month long cleanse consisting of only lemon juice, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. (I tried that once, for two days, decided it was poppycock and reverted to eating like a horse). Mostly I was just looking for some sort of assurance that his intestines weren’t going to rupture if I continued allowing him to ingest the caloric intake of a 40 year old man.

  • Pheobe from Friends + Banana Hammock

Did you know that Tuesday, April 9th was “Name Yourself Day”? Nobody else did, either. Except that my job revolves around producing new, interesting content all day every day, so I’m constantly scrounging around for little nuggets of inspiration. What came to mind when I thought about naming oneself anything in the world? Princess Consuela Bananahammock. Never heard of her? Where WERE you in the….wait….gimme a sec to Google search when Friends was on the air….

I should probably start deleting my search history on a more regular basis.

Parenting Faux Pas: Just Kicking Things Off

It’s bedtime (7:15pm and still light outside). Jammies are on (the fleece footed-onesie has a hood—because he might suddenly need a head covering at 3am in his crib). Bath routine has been successfully completed (this includes a fond goodnight to the bathroom Hawkeye gnome). Time for a story while tucked up on the little sofa in his room. His hand immediately goes up to pat the unintentional mohawk sprouting voluminously from his tiny head, and I pop open a beloved storybook with beautiful pictures, a singsongy rhyme cadence, and plenty of swear words.

Is this when I should question my parenting decisions?

I know I’m not the first to receive Adam Mansbach’s hilarious “children’s book” Go the F#@k to Sleep as a ha-ha-funny indoctrine into the world of parenting. But, wait, am I not actually supposed to read this to my kid? It rhymes, and that’s supposed to be good for their cognitive learning. It has pretty pictures with animals that he can point to and say “rooooaaar”. Plus, it’s just the right length to get him bedtime-prepped without putting mom to sleep as well.

Many of my friends laugh and say “Oh, sure. I read that to my baby, but I replaced all the cuss words with banal language that wouldn’t be offensive.” Guess I didn’t get that memo. I mean, he’s only 1 ½, he can’t read and at this point he leaves off the end consonant on almost every word he says…so even if he tried to say “fuck” it would come out “fuuu” and we would promptly infer that he wanted some traditional vietnamese noodle broth for dinner. No harm, no foul.

It’s things like this that give me momentary pause in the haphazard cadence of our lives as first time parents. Should I be worried about how the outside world will judge my decisions? Is it like a tree falling in the forest if these “errors in judgement” happen within the private walls of our home? If no one can see them…maybe they didn’t happen at all.

The problem is, it’s not limited to just our house. For example, a couple weeks after our son turned 1 and started walking, we took him for a weekend getaway to Austin. On his first trip to the stay-weird-city he was confined to his carrier for any outings…which of course meant we took him to a bar for the NE vs. UT football game. But this time around it was full-fledged summer and we had a tiny toddling man to entertain.

When my sister suggested a visit to her local splash pad, we were all in. If you haven’t visited a splash pad before—it’s a wonderful invention. Schizophrenic fountains of water spout up from the ground and out of control kids run through them screaming like banshees. Squatting their little hiney’s over the bubbling water like it’s one big, concrete bidet. And the best part is that parents can just hang out on the sidelines, clapping and smiling enthusiastically without worrying about trudging through some pee-soaked baby pool like at the Jewish Community Center.

Needless to say, Sam was mesmerized, and hit the chlorine soaked pavement with the vigor only a newly walking human could possess. Adding to his joy was the fact that he had the splash pad all to himself and could squat carefree over every jubilant, spurting stream without challenge from older kids weighing more than 19 lbs. Why, might you ask, was this fabulous water park so empty on a Saturday afternoon in August? Oh, well, that’s because there was a storm brewing and thunder and lighting were currently assailing the afternoon skies.

I swear I don’t want to get my child electrocuted. Between my husband, sister and myself,  a large amount of thought was given to the fact that a mere baby was splashing through frothing puddles while laser flashes crashed over our heads. But…he was having so much fun!! The cheerful exaltation of his cries stopped us every time we thought to rescue him. Just one more minute, we said. Then finally, after a somewhat nasty bout of thunder shook the ground, and the drizzle turned to a full on downpour (I mean, WE didn’t want to be wet) we scooped him up and headed home. Fun, right?

There are a lot of heated debates on parenting techniques these days. To breastfeed or not (and to say “not” is to be assailed upon by screaming righteous feminists, so be wary). Homemade, organic baby food vs. old school Gerber mushed turkey-product sticks (I loved those as a kid. So did our cats). Landfill-waste disposable diapers vs. good-luck-keeping-their-poop-confined-to-that-washable-landing-strip cloth diapers. It’s gonna be a toss-up either way. Your kid will still cry, and laugh, and sneeze out the most disgusting boogers you’ve ever seen.

Which brings me to my biggest “oops” so far in the 18 months my son and I have been learning to work together. And I’ve already told my mother, so this hopefully won’t make her keel over in a dead faint.

It was our usual morning before work routine. Hubby makes breakfast for baby while mama finishes getting ready. Then baby and Kitty discuss world politics while lunches are made and bags are packed before we head out the door in separate directions. I was hefting little dude into his carseat—you know, under the awkward strap that holds it steady while he’s still facing backwards, forcing us both to duck and tuck and contort—when he lets out a huge sneeze that sends strands of Nickelodeon snot cascading down his face. It’s a slow motion dance, me diving into my purse for kleenex before his wily arms can reach his face and smear green goo galore. Whew! We make it in time, and he smiles gaily at me as I hand him Hop On Pop and get into the drivers seat.

It sucks not being able to see his face on the drive since he’s turned towards the back window, but in the rearview mirror I notice his head cheerfully bobbing as we merge onto the highway for our 25 mile commute. I zone out thinking of the day ahead, and after a half hour or so we make it to the lights right outside my office, which is when I hear a chirpy “hi!” from the backseat. He’s turned around looking at me from his chair. Hmmm, that shouldn’t be possible. Unless, of course, someone forgot to strap him. It dawns on me that he just spent the last thirty minutes exploring the backseat while I went 75 mph on the Tollway.

I was horrified, I was ashamed, my hands shook for the next 15 minutes and I was grateful we were both safe. But when I told my scary story to co-workers and friends, I was met with consoling pats and reassured with equally pee-your-pants tales about leaving their kid at the grocery store or watching them fall off the table. Shit happens. We do our best.

So…when we let the baby take our Coors Light cans to the trash for us, or drop him off at Great Aunt Judy’s house on a Saturday so we can go to a movie and take a nap, or watch him run around the house with suffocating-hazard-plastic-bags while we lounge on the couch scanning ESPN and Pinterest on our respective Apple electronics…it’s not for lack of love. He’s our joy, he’s our life, he’s our heart. But we’re all just trying to get along, and sometimes that ain’t pretty. I figure if someone wants to judge, I’ll just tell them, kindly, to go the f#@k to sleep.