October is one of my favorite months! Cool days, apple cider, football, pumpkin farms and Halloween. As a child, this was my Dads favorite time of year. We would spend hours decorating our yard. I’m talking full go spooky cemetery, scary dummies propped up around the house and even nailed to the roof. My dad spent hours cutting wood into tombstones, bats, a cat, scarecrows and a huge moon with a witch flying through it. The entire house was lit with green spot lights. Our school mascot was a pirate. So our scary pirate sat at the end of the road, propped up on our fence… Any time we were out at the store and we saw something that we thought would be a great addition, my Dad would size it up and come up with a way to replicate it on our own.
Every weekend during the month of October, my uncles would come with my cousins and we would go to haunted houses. I never kept my eyes open when we walked through. My head was always buried in my Dads back! I loved being a part of the excitement of the night, just not a huge fan of paying to be scared. One of the last times we all went as a family, my Dad and brothers started yelling as soon as we walked in “Dani’s coming orange hoodie!” It was terrifying, every scary monster that jumped out would say “Hi Dani!” Or “Dani wanna play?” My brothers and Dad were so proud of themselves. Twenty years later, I guess I’m still bitter. Ha
We would have scary movie nights and my Dad and Uncle would pick the ‘classics’. By the way, the original ‘When a stranger calls’ is utterly terrifying. My mom would make sure we were fed something amazing and had home made brownies for us. Then she’d sneak away to her room and watch a show, because she was smart. Weeks later when I was babysitting my cousins, they land line rang all I heard was “why haven’t you checked the children?” I was frozen in fear. Then I heard my dad laughing “you there DB? It’s just me! I’m so sorry!” Side note, he wasn’t sorry at all….
There were even occasions when my Dad would put on the dummy costumes and chase us through the yard. Come to think of it, he only did that to me… One night after coming home from a haunted house, we pulled in the drive and my friend said “What was that?” I looked and didn’t see anything. I got out the car and started walking towards the house. Out of nowhere, the dummy with the scream mask came to life! It chased me out to the road before the mask came off and my dad yelled “It’s me Db!!! Stop running!!” Everyone laughed… I’m still haunted by the memory.
Good Will was our oasis back then. We would go and pick all of the outfits for our dummies. We always put together our own Halloween costumes! That was always so much fun. We would have an idea of what we wanted to do, and off to Good Will we went to make it come to life!
Trick or treater’s actually came to our house. My dad would dress up as something scary and sit outside in a lawn chair passing out candy. We lived in the sticks but cars would stop at the end of yard and kids would pile out. My mom was at every school Halloween party. She always came up with some amazing game or craft. I’ll never forget her walking into my classrooms dressed up for Halloween. She always had the best earrings too.
My dad would spend forever putting on our Halloween makeup and making sure we looked as crazy as we wanted. My parents would take us to the closest neighborhood, and some years would walk in the rain with us.
My mom is a social worker. So every year we would go to the Nursing home she worked at and help decorate the halls, nurses station, and dinning room. We’d spend hours talking to the residents and listening to all of their stories. Then on their trick or treat day, we would all dress up and walk up and down the halls, we’d go room to room. Mine and my brothers friends would come. All of our cousins too. My grandparents would meet us there to watch us.
As kids we bobbed for apples! All of our heads in the same bucket of water. Having the time of our lives. We went to pumpkin farms every weekend. Just to walk around and look. My Dad would take us to buy pumpkins. Then he’d spend forever sketching the faces we wanted onto our pumpkins. Just so we would have a stencil to cut out. After we gave carving our best shot, he would go over our work and make it perfect for us. My mom would make sure she had candles ready to light them up.
October was a wonderful month for us…
Halloween Now, quite frankly, is just not the same. I’ll start with decorations. Parents do you give your kids the experience of using their creativity to decorate your yard, walk way or even a front door? This can be as simple as dollar tree window clings and as complex as building your own spooky scene. When I was growing up, a lot of yards looked like ours. Now it’s rare to drive by a house and admire the work they put into their set up. On the rare occasion we do drive by a house with something going on, the girls will talk about it all day. Especially if they know who’s house it is. They absolutely appreciate the work that goes into designing. I was lucky enough to have most of my childhood Halloween decorations passed down to me, so my girls have grown up being able to put them out and we have added to our yard each year. They LOVE painting, and placing everything just right.
Do you prefer to save time and buy costumes online or do you make a day of picking one out? Costumes can be delivered to your door in one click. Your kiddo may have no idea how much fun it can be to put a costume together themselves. I’m not saying to get out a sewing machine. But if you’re going to get a costume at full price, take your kids with you. Show them all of the costumes out there and let them use their imaginations. Don’t buy the costume in a bag! Let them piece their own costume together. My girls love putting their costumes together themselves. One time, I thought I’d save myself some time and I bought their costumes and had them waiting when they got home. Big mistake that I’ll never do again. Not only did I spend way too much money, but they were excited to have a thrift store day and pick out their own things. I returned the costumes and off we went. I won’t lie and say I wasn’t annoyed. We had an amazing day and I spent a fourth of what I did on amazon. They reminded me that convenience would never make up for an experience.
How often do you go to haunted houses, haunted mazes or haunted hayrides? Now we have to pay $25 per person to walk through a haunted house. How can people afford to go take their kids to a haunted house every weekend? I’m lucky that only my oldest wants to go this year. That responsibility falls on my hubby! I’m still traumatized… I’d rather not be hanging on my oldest while she’s having a ball. Maybe once all of the girls are old enough to go, I’ll try to be a brave little toaster… I’m not committing to anything yet.
Are you a painter or a carver? One of the girls friends told me that in their house they color the pumpkins with markers. At first I thought, their parents a geniouses. Then it hit me what they would be missing out on. Parents, I’m telling you, let them make the mess! Buy a plastic table cloth at dollar tree and tell them to do their worst. Tell them it’s a right of passage to scoop the guts out of a pumpkin. Talk to them about their vision for the carving. Let them slop on every color of paint they want, if that’s your thing. Turn on some classic Halloween songs, YouTube has a ton of song lists ready for you. Dance around the table and act a fool. They will remember it forever!
Are you scared to let your kids go door to door? The days of letting your kiddos trick or treat alone is long gone. Trunk or treats have popped up in every community. Yet, with all of the stories you read now, we have to check are kiddos candy before they can eat it. All of this makes me angry and sad, but it’s a necessary evil. Trunk or treats are so much fun. Most people have their cars decorated and they’re dressed up as well. We also go to my Aunt’s every year and walk around her neighborhood. Last year we trick or treated in the rain. Because, if my parents did it with us, I wasn’t saying no to my girls. Also, my aunt called me a sissy and told me we were going. (I just like the version of events in my head better.)
Are you a ‘Halloween movie night’ kind of person? This is something that is free and will never go away! Our Big’s are almost 12 and 13 so we are just starting our ‘real’ scary movie nights. The Little’s aren’t there yet, so we have our family Halloween movie and then the scary one! Scary movie nights are the best… Make it a big deal! Light some candles, make popcorn, get everyone in their Pj’s and snuggle up close! If you have young kiddos, here’s a link of awesome movies for kids, https://www.redbookmag.com/
Do you remember the moves to thriller? Halloween dance parties are pretty big at our house. We pick one night during the month and take our lights outside and dance the evening away. There’s a spinning strobe light bulb at Walmart, I think it retails for $7. My husband found them a few years ago for a Halloween Bash that we had. Screw that into any lamp and it will light up your back yard!
Are Halloween’s now more convenient in a lot of ways? We live in such a fast paced world now. Between sports, homework and everything else on our plates, it’s easier to buy things instead of making them. It’s more convenient to drive to a park and trick or treat instead of driving/walking your kids door to door. There are still so many ways to make the month of October something special for your family! Pinterest is a double edged sword for me. I’m usually the ‘Pinterest fail’ mom. With that said, there are so many cute, cheap and easy Halloween crafts!! Also, Pinterest has great sites for costumes, parties and treats!
Are you into costume contests? Or just in the mood for a grown up night out? Adults, check out the Halloween costume contests in your neighborhood! My hubby started doing them six or seven years ago. I thought it was really dumb at first, not even worth lying about. I was so annoyed that he was going out and I was home with the kids. In a shocking turn of events, he brought home a fat check for $2,000 his first night out. Needless to say, I am now incredibly encouraging! He also never lets me forget the shade I through at him for going to that first one! As the girls have gotten older, I now love going out with him and watching him work a crowd and make some money in the process!
Let me leave you with this. My parents both worked while I was growing up. Now that I’m an adult, I’m sure all of this extra stuff was the last thing they wanted to do. On their two days off a week, when they had a million other things to do, they made this a priority. The three of us, creating memories and being together was always a priority. My dad has been gone for two and half years now. All I’m left with are these amazing memories. Every Halloween, for the rest of my life, I will remember everything we did TOGETHER. I will cherish all of the laughter, ball busting and banter that went on. I’ll always remember my dad giving us choices and how much we were involved in the creative process, setting up our yard. Coming up with the funny phrases for our tombstones, stuffing clothes to make our dummies and all of the little touches that went a long with it.
In a world where it’s easier to buy ‘cool things’…. I can’t encourage you enough to set aside time to create memories. I was given all of the Halloween stuff we made as kids and I put it out every year. This weekend my girls and I will be repainting it all and putting new stakes on the back of things. They’ll help me set up our very own spooky yard. I’ll spend the day telling them every story I can think of about their Papa. I’ll watch my husband teach them all of his little tricks to setting things up ‘just right.’ Just like I did last year…
We’ll take them to a second hand store and let them search for hours to find the perfect costume they want. We’ll be trick or treating at my aunts house, walking for hours. In the snow or the rain, we will carry on that tradition. We’ll be going to my moms work for their trick or treating. My hubby will more than likely dress up in his stilts and make balloon animals. Like my mom did with us, I’ll be sure to remind them to smile and say Hello to every resident. I hope they hear stories of days passed, because they deserve nothing less than every memory I can give them.