Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Do-it-yourself Halloween

On Saturday I was working frantically on my computer trying to finish up some editing for a client when Emmeline came up to me, vying for my attention.  Her shockingly calm tone (she is not normally a calm girl) drew me out of my photo editing zone.  I could tell she was really trying hard to get this request right.   I looked right into her big brown eyes as she pleaded (for the umpteenth time that day) for me to help her figure out her Halloween costume.  

I started to feel a little frantic inside, thinking of all the expectations I had for myself for this Halloween. I wanted to ‘get it right’ -- delight my kids with effortful costumes, spooky decor, crafty pumpkins.  But then I remembered Halloween from 2011 and this post (see below) that I wrote.  It reminded me that too often we mothers take over holidays.  We worry about how they reflect on who we are as mothers.  We demand so much perfection from them that suddenly our kids get lost in the shuffle and the season becomes more of a display than a true holiday celebration.  I think because Halloween falls during such a crazy time for me, I actually do ‘get it right’.  And by that I mean I don’t do much.  I hand it over.  The kids take total ownership.  And while it’s not in the least bit picture perfect, it’s theirs.  And since they’ve never laid eyes on anything on Pinterest they are delighted by what they create.

So I trashed all my Halloween expectations right there, stopped my picture editing for a few minutes and told the kids how to find the Halloween box.  I edited for the rest of the afternoon, interrupted only by squeals of delight coming from the basement as the kids all tried on and assembled their Halloween costumes and put up their own version of spooky decor. 

Not sure if anyone will top the space squid from 2011…..but we’ve got some good stuff going on here.

So, I’m slacking off again this Halloween.  Please join me!  Let your kids take on some of your load.  I’m pretty sure that’s one of the secrets to being able to enjoy the holidays as a mom.  Things might not look so picture perfect, but we’ll all be smiling and that’s really the point. 

Here’s my repost from 2011. 

We had a do-it-yourself Halloween last year.

Now, you’re probably thinking I mean one of those Halloweens where the mother gets all crafty with Pinterest-inspired homemade decorations and costumes for each child that perfectly fit their current obsessions or go with a very cute overall family theme.  But that’s not at all what I mean.

When I say we had a do-it-yourself Halloween I mean that the kids did it themselves.


Life has been a blur around here, and when I realized how quickly Halloween was approaching and how many things I had on my plate, I just sort of let Halloween come.  I really didn’t do a thing.  No fancy costumes, no fancy decorations.  I bought three pumpkins and two bags of candy and dragged out the Halloween box from the basement.  That’s it.  The kids took over from there.

The kids put out the spooky snake wreath and smothered our dead mums with cotton cobwebs and fake spiders and were very pleased with the effect.  They even cleaned and carved and decorated their own pumpkins without any supervision.  I was sad not to do it as a family, but I was really behind on some projects and boy, that carving provided me with a whole afternoon of quiet time to get things done while the kids were happily engaged with their safe little pumpkin carving saws.


Charlie spent a whole day making his costume.  He was a space squid.  His costume consisted of his old astronaut suit from last year, a paper grocery bag, a tomato box, some other cardboard from the recycle bin and all the scotch tape in the house.  He looked a little more like some kind of space recycling activist or something.  We got some funny looks out trick-or-treating, but he was pleased as punch with his creation.  He went around the house singing, “Who you gonna call?  SPACE SQUID!!!”


Hazel dressed as Anne of Green Gables (with suspiciously brown hair).  We recently listened to the book on tape and Hazel has found her bosom friend.  She and Anne are the most kindred of spirits.  So, she felt it was only natural to dress like Anne for Halloween.  She knew exactly what she wanted to wear (a certain dress from her closet). I guess it does kind of look like something Anne Shirley would wear (before Matthew was so kind to get her her puffed sleeves).  The fact that I never got around to finding some red hair dye and a straw hat for her didn’t seem to bother her one bit.  She thought the dress and basket and braids would do the trick and everyone would know what she was going for.  And it worked out great.  Most people didn’t ask who she was, but those kind souls who did ask responded with such recognition and delight when she revealed her identity that she felt extra great about her costume.


Emmeline resurrected Hazel’s old Lady Bug costume from the costume box.  She knew she was the cutest lady bug around and strutted her stuff all over the neighborhood gathering candy. And Peter was a very cute pumpkin (Hazel’s idea the the neighbors had costume we could borrow).

After a dinner of black bean soup (thanks to my sister’s easy peasy Halloween dinner idea here) we met up with some friends and went in search of candy.  For the first year, my kids were all really excited about Trick-or-Treating and all the neighbors were so kind to them. We just did a few blocks and then their candy bags felt sufficiently heavy and we happily headed home with our loot.


At first, I felt pretty lame that I was so hands-off this year with Halloween. Maybe I could have at least helped Charlie find some better materials to make his costume. Maybe I could have squeezed in some time to find a hat or hair dye for Hazel. Maybe I should have helped the kids carve their pumpkins or make our house extra spooky and festive.  But, this year it just wasn’t in the cards.  And you know what?  Halloween was a big hit. The kids were perfectly happy – in fact they were delighted that I let them do everything their way this year. And because I wasn’t stressed out of my mind trying to pull something elaborate off, I was able to really enjoy it all as I stood back and applauded the kids’ efforts.

One of these years I’ll delight my children and have a do it MYSELF Halloween.  I promise.  But, I can’t promise I can improve on that space squid.


  1. Perfect! I do think most of the super amazing Halloween (or any holiday) set ups are really for us Mums anyway...I'm sure we all enjoy it a lot more when we keep it simple!

  2. We talked about this on the radio last week. Thanks for the great idea!



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