Friday, November 8, 2013

Halloween

What a month! I adore Halloween. Now that he's older, I find it hard to turn down anything Halloween-related.

First, a costume. Lots of boys his age are going as superheroes, but he's not into that. It's not that I keep him from it. He gets genuinely uncomfortable around anything involving danger or bad guys. We tried to watch "Wordgirl", a tame cartoon about a superhero girl who fights crime (and teaches vocabulary along the way), and he rejected it after less than two full episodes. Any time the heroes were tied up or trapped he would pull the plug. I'm hoping to show him Star Wars in a few months, but who knows, he may not be able to handle it, or maybe we can just skip the trash compactor.

Anyway, costumes. I offered Theo some ideas, and he picked Blue, from Blue's Clues. The show is gentle and fun and adorable and smart. It was possible for me to make his costume, and a coordinating costume for myself. As you guys know, Halloween brings out my crafty side.


I don't sew, however, so costuming involves finding the right clothing. In this case I needed a sweatsuit in light blue. In this age of internet shopping that shouldn't be impossible, right? Let me tell you, it was. There was nothing for sale in light blue in his size (also - baby blue, sky blue, electric blue, aqua, etc) and eBay was no help either. I found individual pieces but nothing that matched. I even looked for girls' outfits but everything is frilly or decorated. Grrr. So instead, I had to buy the actual branded costume, but that was another search, as this show was cancelled many years ago and lives on only in reruns. Even when you do find it you still have choices to make - vest and hood only? Cheap lightweight one, or full body fuzzy one that will be very warm in daytime activities?

I opted for the full furry costume because it looked the best, then crossed my fingers and hoped the weather would cooperate. Last year it was blazing hot in October and our afternoon party with the MOMS Club practically required sunblock. The kids stripped off their warm costumes and the chocolate melted. Not exactly spooky fall fun.

Thankfully, the weather stayed cool during the whole Halloween period, even cold, and Theo was perfectly comfortable in his one-zip dog costume. The only other wrinkle was that the costume came in two sizes - 2T, or 3T/4T. Theo just had a growth spurt where 2T was just about too small but I knew with his thin frame he'd be drowning in anything described as fitting a 4T child. I also couldn't try anything on as eBay was my only option. The 2T fit him just barely, and the small hood ended up pushing Blue's face upwards. Not exactly what I had in mind, but it was fine.

I made myself a stripey shirt so I could go as Steve, Blue's owner. I found a near-perfect long sleeve dark green shirt on eBay, then bought a lime green shirt at a thrift shop to cut into strips and iron on.


Overall, the costume choices worked out great. He loved being Blue, doing his impression of Blue's "bow bow bow" bark, which was cute enough to stop traffic. Holding him was like carrying a live warm teddy bear. He called me "Steve" a lot, and I did my best impression of Steve playing Blues Clues with him, putting on that quizzical look and asking obvious questions. At the Trunk 'n Treat (below) he had a mishap with a kid on the playground, and through his tears yelled "Mommy! Oh wait I mean Steve!" He loved it so much, it lasted for days after all the Halloween stuff was over with. It's amusing being called "Steve", by my son, in public, out of costume, and completely out of context.

The City of Orange closes down the downtown area for an event called Treats in the Streets. Stores hand out candy to kids, and there's games and facepainting and treats. We hadn't done this event before, as it's a crazy popular one and didn't seem worth it with a toddler, especially one who is not a fan of noisy crowds. This year we gave it a shot. It involved a lot of effort - parked far away, very busy, long waits for candy. But the costume watching made it entirely worth it. Not only were there cute kiddos and great family costumes, but groups of committed teens and adults dressed to the nines. We got some appreciative nods from families with little ones that recognized our costumes, but the best were the teenagers who had grown up when Blue was the biggest thing on TV. One of them waved timidly at me as if starstruck. Theo was over waiting in lines very quickly, but there were other things to see. Firefighters parked some engines for kids to climb on. There was a petting zoo and some simple carnival games. We had dinner at Watson's Diner, which was crazy busy with event attendees, making it a very long weeknight, but totally worth it.

My MOMS Club chapter holds a "Trunk 'n Treat", where we park our cars at a local park, open the trunks and decorate them, then have the kids trick or treat from trunk to trunk. We also hold a potluck lunch and the kids play on the playground. It's a perfect mini-Halloween for the little ones, and a chance to see all our Club friends in costume. Theo is old enough to remember the event from a year ago, and he got very into it this time around. He didn't need my help to say "trick or treat" and get the candy in such a friendly environment.

On Halloween itself, Theo's preschool had a costume parade and lunch party, with parents invited. They combined all of their classes into one loud and boisterous crowd. When I showed up, parents were taking pics of all the kids sitting on the rug while they screamed "CHEESE" at the top of their voices. When Theo saw me, he tried to leave the group, and I motioned him to stay put. He burst into tears, so I let him come over and hug me. The loudness and stress of the large group was too much for him. After a while I was able to convince him that I would be outside with the other parents and that he needed to march along with his friends. What an adorable event - all kinds of amazing costumes. Lots of the usual princesses and super heroes along with a few neat creative ones, including a little girl dressed as Donald Duck, complete with orange swim flippers. Theo dutifully paraded in line, just barely keeping it together with the kids all bumping into each other. When they stopped for more pics as a group he wanted out, immediately, and I figured he had been through enough. It was amazing how long the pictures went on after that - another solid 15 minutes of grouping and posing and yelling before they sat down to eat, which was another bit of nuttiness. As soon as he was done eating he wanted to leave and I admit it, so did I.

After all that I didn't want to overdo things that evening, so we went trick or treating in our neighborhood. We live in a gated condo complex and we have never had very many trick or treaters. In past years I've taken Theo around inside the complex and it's been enough, even though very few houses have jack 'o lanterns. I stick to my rule of not knocking on a door unless they have some decoration. We were never sure how good of a neighborhood the outside world was for trick or treat but there have always been some decorations so we figured it might be just enough to make Theo (and us) happy. We left our gates and it turns out we live in a very good Halloween neighborhood. There were lots of kids of varying ages walking around, and the majority of houses had decorations. On one street quite a few people were hanging out on porches to hand out the candy, talking to neighbors, spooking the kids just a bit with costumes.

Theo was fully committed to the prospect of getting more candy. He was definitely out of his element, but put his game face on. It was more evidence of his recent shifts in personality. He's been much braver lately, on the playground, among strangers, and in trying new things, and it gets better all the time. It was interesting what did make him afraid. He definitely didn't like those large inflatable lawn decorations - took some coaxing to get him near them, even as we explained they were just big balloons. One house had a strobe light that was pretty freaky. Sometimes even a silly cartoon decoration would push some sort of button. Throughout we reminded him that it was all pretend, which he repeated a bit to keep himself steady. There were no meltdowns or struggles, just gentle coaxing and some hand holding. He had a great time. We did a just a few blocks and it was plenty to wear him out and fill up his bucket. Afterwards, we let him stay up late and have a lollypop while we watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". Halloween bliss.

It pleases me to no end that Theo was able to embrace the spooky side of Halloween and participate happily. As he gets braver we are able to have more fun in all sorts of new areas. Next, we all get to put our brave faces on as we deal with Thanksgiving and Hanukkah all in one weekend!