The scariest thing for me about Halloween isn't the gory front yard decorations that pepper the neighborhood, the potential for our house to be toilet-papered (which goes up exponentially when you have a high-schooler) or my complete lack of willpower for fun-sized anything.
No, my major holiday angst comes from trying to help my kids land on marginally creative, yet age and weather appropriate, costumes. And they must be costumes that don't require me to use a needle, thread, glue gun or hammer.
On the whole, I like to think I am better with concept than craft. And then again, sometimes even my "concepts" leave something to be desired.
My first maternal Halloween occurred when my son was just shy of six months. It was the perfect baby age for playing dress up -- old enough to sit still and look cute for pictures, but not quite old enough to crawl away and destroy the whole costume in the first 10 minutes. I had set my personal bar high. I knew I wanted something classic, but not too predicable. Something comfortable, but not too pajama-like. And nothing that would forever date him. The Spice Girls "Wannabe" had been a huge hit earlier that year, but I figured he had the rest of his life to dress up like Baby, Posh or Scary.
After days of store scouring and indecision, I finally settled on a purchased orange onesie. My little pumpkin, of course...could be a pumpkin. But instead of the traditional gourd-like sack with hood that was so in vogue with the folks who design those "Baby's First Halloween" outfits, I was able to track down a little orange beret with a green "stem" on top. No, my guy wouldn't have to settle for being a run-of-the-mill Jack-O-Lantern. With his Parisian-inspired headwear he could be a Jacques-O-Lantern.
Get it? Beret, French--- Jacques-O-Lantern?
Don't worry, neither did anyone else on our block. And I've since given up on trying too hard on Halloween. From that day forward the unwritten costume rule has been you can be whatever you want for trick or treating--just as long as it can be purchased for under $20 and takes no more than 10 minutes of my "creative" time.
Since then my sons have been, among other towering figures of American history, George Washington, Davy Crockett and Michael Jackson. A store-bought powdered wig, coonskin hat and sequined glove, we found, can go a long way in helping to telegraph the spirit of a costume. My daughter has been a non-descript witch of some sort at least three times and a non-Disney princess (her distinction, not mine) twice. She's actually pretty easy to please as long as it involves a can of glittery hair dye.
I do feel a little guilty when I see some of the fabulous disguises kids have sported at our neighborhood's annual Halloween parade. There have been elaborate cardboard computers with working switchboards, balloon-clad bunches of grapes and a glowing, neon stick figure. All have been meticulously researched, designed and executed -- likely with the help of a parent with vision, skills and the patience for detail.
But sometimes a kid just has to settle. And my kids have long since settled into the realization that this holiday doesn't play to their mother's strengths. Unless, of course, you count my ability eat all of the chocolate coating off a Reese's cup without disturbing the peanut butter center.
So come October 31, will you be one of those parents deserving of an Academy Award for costume design? Or are you more like me and depend on the mercy of the 50% off bin at Halloween Express for inspiration?comments powered by Disqus
The recent shift in the weather is just another sign that autumn is fast approaching. That means one of my favorite activities is just around the corner -- apple picking. My husband and I have been picking apples every fall since before our kids were born.
I have a lot of questions about what to put on my eight-month-olds' plates -- and, if I'm honest, a deep and abiding fear of putting the wrong thing there. Did I start them on solid foods at the right time? What's the deal with baby-led weaning -- how much self-feeding should they be doing? At what age should I give them potential allergens like shellfish or nut products?
Lily the potbellied pig arrived at Heartland Farm Sanctuary blind, lethargic and too overweight to walk. The children of Heartland's summer day camp program took it upon themselves to put the curl back in her tail.
Is it just me or does each summer seem to go by quicker than the last? The end of summer is upon us and for many families this means the start of a new school year.
This past week, on the way to the grocery store, my daughter asked what I believed she thought would be a innocuous question, "Mom, when are we going back-to-school shopping?"
Volunteering with the Young Writers Summer Camp this past week really helped me to remember how utterly creative kids can be when encouraged to come up with their own ideas and use their own words.
This past week I gleefully accepted an offer for new job on the UW-Madison campus. My kids are getting are older and I guess I've felt for a while now that it was time to figure out what would be next for me on the professional front.
"Kids spend so much time in and around school, it's the only place where some have a chance to develop an appreciation for a healthy lifestyle," says Katie Hensel, founder and executive director of Tri 4 Schools.
"I'm envious, mom," said my twelve-year-old daughter as she hopped in the car after theater camp last week. "All the other kids in my group seem to really like, and to be really good at, singing, dancing and acting. But I think all those things are just okay."
"People are looking to book space here all the time," says Remy Fernández-O'Brien, communications and facilities coordinator for the Lussier Community Education Center, a private, nonprofit community center on Madison's west side. "They want to throw their child's first birthday party here or hold a Girl Scout meeting. We're really busy year-round, but it's especially lively here in the summer."
Last week, in response to the county-wide Sleep Safe, Sleep Well public health campaign that encourages parents to "share the room, not the bed" with their sleeping infants, Isthmus contributor Ruth Conniff penned a lovely opinion piece in defense of bed sharing entitled "Confessions of a Co-Sleeper."
As much as I'd like to believe there is latent genius in my daughter's early finger paintings, I'm pretty sure her works are not distinguishable from those created by the pointer fingers and pinkies of thousands of other children from across the world.
Seeing Romeo and Juliet this past weekend was a definite reminder that I need to prepare for something that might resemble a (near) West Side Story around our place pretty soon.
All during childhood, we calmly tell our kids they don't need to be afraid of the dark, thunder or the monster under the bed. But it's pretty hard to keep your parental cool when your kid is about to embark on the one thing that terrifies you. I knew the problem wasn't really with him. It was with me.
Last January, when temperatures dipped below minus 30 and most people between the ages of 16 and 24 did anything to stay inside, a small yet sturdy group of at-risk teenage boys and young men stacked wood and managed controlled burns at Festge County Park near Cross Plains. Five months later, following a temperature swing of more than 100 degrees, Isthmus found some of those same guys removing invasive honeysuckle and buckthorn at Lake View Hill County Park on Madison's north side.
The first week of summer break at our place usually comes and goes without incident. At times, one could argue, it even verges on pleasant. I have no school lunches to pack and the kids have no 7 a.m. buses to catch.
Have you tried getting anywhere on either Verona Road or East Johnson lately? I'm pretty sure a six-month old could crawl to Fitchburg, or across the isthmus, in less time that it takes me to drive there these days.
As soon as the door closed behind him, I poured myself a cup of the coffee he had made and took a moment to let the enormity of what just happened sink in. My son was ready that morning despite my inability to properly set an alarm clock. My kid was ready that morning without nudging, cajoling, or reminding. He was ready, even when I wasn't.
For the past 17 years or so (i.e., since I've had kids), I haven't made books the priority in my life I know they should be. It's not that I don't try. Just this past weekend I had the best of intentions of picking up, and even finishing, I am Malala, this year's UW-Madison's Go Big Read pick. But the copy still sits untouched on my nightstand.
The longest day of the year is upon us. For those of you keeping track, the sun will rise at 5:18 a.m. and set at 8:41 p.m. on Saturday, June 21. All that daylight, courtesy of the annual summer solstice, will provide the perfect backdrop for Make Music Madison, a daylong event featuring hours and hours of free performances in nearly every corner of the city.