Mama Madison: From the Halloween files

This week: "The Costume"

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?

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