strengths and weaknesses

We all have talents.

When it comes to holidays, I totally excel at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving is a no-brainer for me. I love food. I love wine. I love big dinners with my closest friends and family. Of course my favorite holiday is the one where you are supposed to eat and drink all day with your nearest and dearest. And be thankful for all your have in life, of course.

I do Christmas well too. I painstakingly decorate my tree with hand strung popcorn and cranberries. I have amassed an amazing collection of ornaments over the years. We bake an obscene number of cookies. Filling the children’s stockings (not with socks and flashlights, thank you) gives me great joy. I make the contents funny and meaningful, and enjoy the stocking ritual more than I do the unwrapping of presents.

Sadly, I’m kind of sucky at Halloween.

There’s no reason why. Halloween means fall. It’s the holiday for my favorite color, orange. I love how happy Halloween makes the kids. Carving pumpkins is fun, especially now that the boys are old enough to help, and I don’t have to do all the work. I don’t even really have to decorate the house by myself anymore because the kids take care of it, although this year, Halloween snuck up on us. We didn’t have the usual countdown of days and we never got our fake cobwebs on the bushes or any of our other decorations out of the storage bin except two strands of skeleton garland.

So where does the angst originate? For me, it’s the costuming. I might be able to put together an outfit, but visualizing a costume is a different story. I sometimes get paralyzed over this process, especially when the kids give vague orders like they did this year: “just order us vampire teeth and claws and we’ll figure out the rest.” I know I have to let go and just trust that their vision is fulfillable once we put it to the test tonight. Maybe I’m a tiny bit scarred by Halloween four years ago when Jack was going to be a zombie but decided at the last minute that he wanted to be an “army man” and threw on a camo t-shirt and grabbed a neon nerf gun as a prop. He looked like he did any other day outside playing with his friends.

Whatever the naissance of my panicky Halloween state, I sit at my desk today not consumed by the election or superstorm coverage, but by the internal debate as to whether I should buy werewolf hair (Jack says they don’t need it) in case whatever they have planned doesn’t work accordingly. Or maybe I can just let go of the worry and grab another piece of candy.

trick or treat

Mad Eye Moody and Barty Crouch Jr. transformed into Mad Eye Moody

Halloween preparation at my house goes something like this: in February, one child will say, “I want to be [fill in the blank] for Halloween.” I will gently remind said child that he has plenty of time to think about it and plan accordingly. But then October rolls around, the idea from eight months earlier is all but forgotten, and a week out we have a mad dash of indecision-fueled panic over what “we” are going to be.

I do think the best costumes are homemade or in accordance with my skill level, home-altered. For example, since I am not handy with a sewing machine, two years ago when Jack wanted to be a Zombie Doctor, I bought a doctor costume and we zombied it up. Or back when Colin wanted to be a bloody ghost, I bought a white sheet and some gauze, and he quite artfully applied the guts and gore.

Last year we had utter costume failure when Jack, unable to pinpoint his idea until 15 minutes before we were due to meet up with our regular posse of trick or treating families, did not have all the supplies and materials necessary to execute a sufficiently festive getup. He looked like that teenager who pretends to be dressed up just to get candy.

Thus this year, I was the one who in February was encouraging the kids to commit to a Halloween costume.

I thought we had it settled when in July I made two Mad Eye Moody costumes (including the eyes) for the boys to wear to a Harry Potter party. Of course, I assumed we’d get multiple uses out of my uncharacteristically creative efforts. But no. Neither child wants to repeat the Mad Eye portrayal. Jack, having failed to make an adequate “army man” last year has decided he wants to go for perfection this year. As of Saturday, Colin was still opting between also being an army man (i.e. part of Jack’s squadron) or a werewolf. These are very different ideas with very different levels of stress-induced anxiety inflicted on this busy mommy. Luckily, by Sunday, Colin too had opted to be a solider, a decision that I believe was inspired by the fact that he gets to make use of the camo-face paint he got for Christmas last year.

Now I just need to remember to buy the Halloween candy.