My Halloween Decorations and Why I Paid Full Retail

My first ever Halloween decoration

I just went out and bought a whole bunch of Halloween decorations for our front yard.

Why now, you say?

If you’re asking why, on October 30, would I go to Target and pay full retail when we all know that come November 1, all Halloween products will go on sale, well, it’s because I needed some Halloween decorations NOW.  Selections were already slim at the store, and I just couldn’t wait, because Halloween is, um, tomorrow.

If this doesn't scare you, I don't know what will...

Why didn’t I buy these things on November 1 a year ago, you say?  I know — I’m asking the same question.

If you’re asking why, now that our kids are 12 and 14 and have pretty much figured out that Santa is not real and that tooth fairies pay more for molars, would I be decorating our front yard with Halloween trinkets as if they were still 2 and 4, well…that’s more complicated.

This is the first time in years that I’m actually going to be home on October 31.  Each year, I seemed to be singing for children at some Halloween- or Harvest-event or another, and I was always busy leading up to the performance.  I thought a bowl of candy and a functioning porch light was enough to get Halloween rolling. Thanks, honey, for taking the kids around our neighborhood.

I know Halloween has lost much of its luster for our kids.  It used to be the most wonderful night of the year (next to Christmas, of course), and we planned for weeks on their costumes.  Every year, we obliged and ended up spending way too much for a store-bought costumes that are made cheaply and which every other kid on the block also had:  Ariel, Woody, Cinderella, train conductor, Harry Potter, Jasmine, astronaut, mermaid — we’ve done them all.

This year, my 12-year old daughter is dressing up as a makeup artist.  What a stretch.  The only “costume” I had to order this year was a makeup brush belt, mail ordered for only $19.99 from  Actually, she was a hit at last week’s Halloween party at youth group and won Best Costume.

Josh, my 14-year old, is not sure yet what he is going to dress up as.  He’s into the British TV show Dr. Who right now, so he might try that route.  Just put on dad’s sport coat.  Whatever it is, he better decide soon, because his voice is about to change and I think you are disqualified as a trick-or-treater once you start sounding like a man.  This is probably his last opportunity.

This baby sings "Thriller" next to our fog machine.

So maybe that’s why I got all the Halloween decorations.  Maybe I know that childhood is nearing the end at our home, and I’m trying to slow down that process.  I’m hanging onto whatever childhood is left and trying to make up for lost time — you know, the times I was out working on Halloween night instead of walking around the neighborhood with my own children.

I’m hanging onto the notion that I’ll be able to use the same Halloween decorations again next year.  I’ll also go back to Target and catch a few more items on sale on November 1.  But then I’ll probably get tempted to purchase the cute Christmas decorations, ignoring the full retail price tag just because I’ll want to hang onto the magic of Christmas this year.

Ah, motherhood.

A First Birthday Surprise

David and I were getting ready one afternoon to attend the first birthday party for our neighbor’s daughter.  She was born only a few weeks before ours, so we were eager not only to celebrate their child’s milestone but also, vicariously, our own.  We were also taking notes to help us plan our own bash for our son.

We were running a bit late as usual, but we sure wanted to get there before the scheduled arrival of the “Special Celebrity Guests.”  They were characters from a popular TV show geared towards very young children, so I knew that Joshua would be excited to meet them.

As I was changing his diaper one last time, I happen to glance outside our front window.  A beat-up car was puffing down our quiet cul-de-sac.  It was an ancient model like a Datsun B210, which my older sister used to drive in high school.  In fact, I bet it was the exact same car except that one of the windows was completely covered (or replaced) by duct tape, and each panel of the automobile was in various stages of a paint job.  This car  parked, of all places, right in front of our home.

I realize that in many parts of the world, a sight of such a beat-up car wouldn’t cause any alarm, but not here in my suburban paradise.  Our city is clean and pristine, and you never see cars held together by duct tape.  I raised my eyebrow as my mama bear instincts took over.

Two shady characters climbed out of the car — both from the passenger side, as the driver’s door was permanently shut.  The platinum blonde twentysomething girl shared the last drag of a cigarette with the young man with the shaved head who then squished the butt with his Doc Martens.

I called upstairs for David.

It was a warmish day for February, but I was still surprised at their skimpy attire which clearly revealed their generous body art.  I was therefore somewhat relieved when they popped open their trunk and pulled out some bright-colored attire.  The girl stepped into a yellow colored suit, and the guy into the purple one.  They zipped each other up to their necks.

Before I could realize what was going on, they then grabbed two round things out of the trunk and pulled them over their heads.  That’s when it finally dawned on me:

Oh my goodness.  They are the Special Celebrity Guests!

After checking each other one last time, they walked up to our neighbor’s house and rang the doorbell.

I yelled for David to hurry down.  I finished dressing my baby, grabbed my bag, and we ran down the street to the party.  “Honey, we’ve got to warn them!  Children, avert your eyes!”

Too late.  By the time we arrived, the two TV characters were happily mingling with the little guests and their parents while their theme song played.  Like characters at Disneyland, they only gesticulated without verbalizing.  Androgynous characters anyway, no one could tell who was inside those innocent-looking costumes.  Only a couple of children ran off crying, instinctively sensing danger. If the parents only knew.

The Special Guests then popped a CD in the stereo and proceeded with their show.  They hopped and moved just like they do on the TV screen.  The parents coaxed their children to sing along.  They were surprisingly entertaining, and, for a moment, even I forgot what was inside those costumes.

After they finished, they collected their check from our neighbor and left.  I peeked out their window to watch the pair as they returned to their junk mobile.  They emerged from their costumes, shared another cigarette, climbed  back into the car from one side, and drove off, most likely to their next party gig.

I never did tell my neighbor what I witnessed that day before their sweet daughter’s party.

And I have been searching for a lesson in this whole thing ever since.

Don’t judge a book by its cover?

Beauty is only skin deep?

Material for my blog someday?

Parents, beware before booking entertainment for your kid’s party?

All of the above.

Halloween shopping…in May.

It’s mid-May.  It’s almost Memorial Day.  Soon, you can start wearing white.  It’s also time to start thinking about your kids’ Halloween costumes for next October!

Too early, you say?  Well, consider this: you’ll have to a) either custom make your costumes or b) purchase them at retail stores or online at places for kids’ Halloween costumes.  Either way you’ll want to get a head start on it.  If your kids are as picky as mine, you will need a lot of time to prepare for this fall event, whether trick-or-treating in the neighborhood or attending the many Harvest Festival-like events at churches and community centers around town.

Last year, I got really ambitious and actually made their costumes.  I don’t know what got into me, but I went and invested in a sewing machine!  Meg wanted a unique costume, so we went to JoAnne’s and found a McCall’s pattern for a mermaid costume, bought fabric, and got down to work.

I hadn’t sewn since high school.  The last outfit I sewed was my prom dress.  It was a pretty yellow wrap dress, one-of-a-kind.  I was making good headway and was just sewing up the final seam along the length of the entire dress, when I proudly held up my couture outfit.  I was horrified to discover that I had actually sewn the skirt I was wearing right onto my new dress!  Time to bring out the seam ripper.

My mermaid costume was not quite as disastrous, but I did have to utilize the seam ripper a couple of times.  This is how it turned out:

I was still on a roll, so I went on to sew this number for Josh without a pattern.   Yes, you heard me right: Freehand!  My son showed me a character from “Adventure Time,” and I made my own pattern on newsprint, just like my mom used to do when I was growing up.  Actually, this photo shows my second attempt at Josh’s costume, as the first attempt was…a “practice run.”  Good thing I had purchased extra fabric.

Unless you are temporarily crazy like I was last fall, you will want to spare yourself the hassle and go right to a costume store.  There are lots of them nearby, many temporarily utilizing vacant store spaces in strip malls in town.  You will need to cover your kids’ eyes as you walk past the “adult” costumes section, though.  “Mommy, why is the nurse’s costume so short?” “What’s that whip for?”  Ummmm…

If you want to avoid retail stores altogether, it is so easy to go online and find costumes.  Check out online Halloween costume stores where they have a bigger selections of costumes than you can possibly find at retail stores.  Order during the summer so they don’t run out of your favorites (as I once found out the hard way on a particular mid-October afternoon)!  Be the first on the block to get the most popular costumes.  The best thing is that they deliver right to your door.  What mom would turn that down?

(This blog was brought to you by the friends at  You know you’re a real blogger when businesses start advertising on your blog site, which is now the case with this Panda Mom!)