Halloween Hoops

We should talk about Halloween. Mostly because I have the cat for it.

Black cat Ruby in front of a pumpkin

Actually, I have two Halloween cats, but only Ruby was interested in the pumpkins.

God, Halloween. I have grown to hate Halloween. It used to be awesome because my sister’s birthday is on Halloween, but ever since I don’t live in the same place as her, it is less fun. Now it is just this whole stressful, expensive, sugar-filled, sensory nightmare.

I was talking to a friend of mine and we decided it would just be so much easier if we let our kids go on a candy-buying spree and then locked the doors and stayed home and ate candy all day on Halloween.

But no, you’re not allowed to do that. There are all these little hoops that you have to jump through, some of which Team Stimey accomplishes better than others.

Hoop one: Pumpkins

Pumpkin carving is awesome, right? Except every kid has to have their own pumpkin, but they are too young to go about whacking at a pumpkin with a butcher knife, so what really happens is that Alex and I end up taking orders from our kids about how exactly they want a perfect six-point star for a left eye and a square for the right. And this comes after we have to scoop out the insides because…ick, pumpkins are slimy and smelly and the children couldn’t possibly be asked to put their delicate little hands inside there.

Sam carving a pumpkin while holding his nose closed.

Honestly, it was kind of impressive that Sam even agreed to be in the same room with the pumpkins.

Sam holding his jack o' lantern.

It was totally worth it though, because he took knife in hand and carved his pumpkin entirely by himself for the first time. I LOVE it.

Hoop two: Getting the costume to school

This only applies if your costume is bulky.

Quinn in a Minecraft Steve head.

Quinn’s was bulky, but hilarious, so it was okay. I laughed every time I saw him. Also, it is apparently difficult to walk with a box on your head.

Jack’s school makes their costumes in the classroom, so I didn’t have to lift a finger for him. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

Hoop three: School parties

Ugh. I think the only people who have a harder time than parents with school Halloween parties are the poor teachers who have to supervise them. Of course, kids love them.

Well. Most kids.

Sam is in middle school now, so he didn’t have a Halloween party at school, but Jack and Quinn both had theirs at exactly the same time. I wanted to go to both, but that ended up not working out, what with my not actually being two people.

My wonderful friend who has a daughter in Jack’s class took photos of him, so I can show you his costume before I launch into the story of Quinn’s party.

Jack hamming it up in his Halloween parade

Jack has enough joy to spread around. I like that about him.

Then there is Quinn. Quinn is afraid of many things. Halloween is a really tough time of year for him. He so badly wanted to go to his class party and get all the treats there, but he was absolutely terrified at the idea of walking in the costume parade—even with a box on his head to obscure his vision.

Quinn and I hung out in his classroom while the rest of the school marched around the halls. We spent our time drawing cats.

Quinn holding a drawing of a cat.

For example…

I gotta tell you, Quinn has a tough life. I’m not being sarcastic. I have a ton of sensory issues, so I understand a lot of what he goes through, but he is really intense. He must be on edge all day long waiting for the next assault.

Quinn peeking in the classroom window from the hall.

A kid at a different table opened up a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips, sending Quinn running out to the hall, where he stayed until I made him come back inside. He was uncomfortable even being around that student after he was done eating the chips. It was as if he sensed little chip-dust particles floating around him.

Quinn must be on guard at all times—for sensory stressors, for things that scare him, for things that make him gag and throw up (e.g. chip dust). It makes sense that he can be so irritable. I’d be irate too if I had to be so entirely vigilant all the time.

Hoop four: Costumes

I usually try to not spend too much money on costumes. Sometimes we make them, sometimes we cobble them together out of stuff we have, sometimes I buy them, one memorable year I had someone sew one, and this year I threw a million dollars at Amazon and had them send me two insanely expensive boxes for Quinn and Jack to wear.

Quinn as Steve, Jack as a creeper.

They were both extremely happy and extremely cute about the whole thing.

Hoop five: Handing out candy

Here’s something: Phish always plays a much-anticipated show on Halloween, which means that Alex is always gone. This means that I get to take my kids trick or treating by myself at the same time as I hand out candy at home. This usually entails me putting out a bowl of candy and hoping teenagers don’t take it all before we get home. (See above comment about not actually being two people.)

This year, Sam stayed home and gave out candy. He was so adorable about it. He took his responsibility very seriously. He also totally channeled me later in the evening when we still had a ton of candy left and he started shoveling handfuls of it in trick-or-treater’s bags.

Sam handing out Halloween candy

And he didn’t even get kidnapped from our house, which was my primary concern in letting him stay home and answer the door at night—something I expressly refuse to let him do when he stays home alone.

Hoop the last: Trick or treating, a.k.a. Kill me now

I can’t even. I mean…I just can’t.

Usually trick or treating is exhausting. My kids all run in a million directions and I end up shouting at them to stick together and they don’t and it is a whole thing, but they usually have a really good time. Except when they don’t. Like when Quinn sees a costume that scares him and he can’t relax because he is working so hard to avoid seeing it again.

This year was a perfect storm of nightmare. My kids and I were heading out of the house to meet our neighbors who we were going to trick or treat with when my cell phone rang. It was my insurance people looking to take a statement on my car break-in. I was all, “I can talk to you and walk my kids up the street,” because, yeah, evidently I’ve never met my kids before.

I was almost done talking to the woman on the phone when we ran into our neighbors. Jack ran up to his friend and hugged her. Quinn’s friend, who, incidentally, was wearing a mask that Quinn found terrifying, came up behind him and said, “Boo!” (He didn’t know Quinn was scared of the mask and was just trying to hang out with his pal.)

Quinn lost it.

He shrieked, turned around and ran home.

I made a quick Sophie’s Choice, decided Jack would be fine with his friend, and ran home after Quinn, hanging up on a disoriented insurance agent as I searched for Quinn, whom I eventually found trembling under his bed.

After that it was me (and the neighbors) juggling my sobbing kid and the neighbor’s sobbing kid and finding Jack and trying to convince Quinn that there weren’t terrible things around every corner, because he really did want to trick or treat and even if he didn’t I had to FIND JACK, and thank God for the people who had pets in their living rooms because petting animals finally made Quinn relax a little, but the neighbor kid never recovered and went home and never came back out and dear fucking God, I’m just glad that I have an entire year before Halloween comes again.

Also, it rained.

So. Happy birthday to my sister. Can’t wait until next year! The end.

26 thoughts on “Halloween Hoops

  1. Oh, poor sweet Quinn. And poor sweet Quinn’s friend!

    When I was a kid, we used to trick-or-treat before dark when we were younger; much less scary. I wouldn’t have done well in the dark when I was Quinn’s age!

  2. We have totally lucked out with the trick or treat thing. Joey LURVS being in costume, and getting to talk to everybody in the neighborhood, which is cute even when you are 11 years old when you are wearing a big, fluffy, blue, homemade monster costume, and grin like… well, Joey. Also, we are friendly with two of the families on the next street. When Joey lags (with the chatting and the difficulty moving thing), Andy can still dance circles around a group of friends as they run between the houses. Also, everybody knows us now, even people who are new on the block. Joey is a bit of a celebrity, because he’s… Joey. Then I can send Joey home, and either help with the littler ones while Andy dances off with the bigger ones (like I did this year), or get sat on a front step with a drink and told “you totally need to sit down”, like we did last year. Because otherwise, October has been suckalicious for us for the past few years.

    Sending Quinn calming, chip-free, smell-free, fuzzeh-kitteh-tummeh hugs. And some hugs for the rest of you. We all survived another year.

  3. Your day and evening was exactly what I expected to happen at our house. The day before, when my kids decided that had to try out their costumes afterschool quickly turned into one massive meltdown after the other. I was dreading Halloween. Surprisingly everything went remarkably well. Of course, I think the extra pharmaceutical assistance had a lot to do with the day’s successes.

    I so feel for you and Quinn. I too have significant sensory issues, and remember like it was yesterday the Halloweens that terrified me to the point of calling it quits for the evening. My youngest did pretty well until it got dark. Then, shortly when after we had to walk by a rather scary looking house with loud music playing he said he was tired and begged to go home. It’s so hard to watch their anxiety levels keep increasing with no options for relieving their panic.

    Congratulations! We’ve made it through another year. Now we’re just back to dealing with the usual sources anxiety.

  4. I so get this. I’ve talked my kids into just buying the candy they want/can eat, dressing up, and going out to dinner. Sure, they chose the most expensive restaurant we go to, but I didn’t have to do trick or treat in the rain. I also get out of pumpkins because the squirrels here eat them.

  5. You’d have enjoyed halloween our house this year. No trick or treating. Only one very low key party. No costumes. (Although I actually missed dressing up our eldest in his annual Frodo costume. Too old now apparently) I did buy pumpkins to carve but only our youngest wanted to do any carving and no hollowing out (of course!) so I prepared both and carved one. Otherwise we just stayed in and watched a Simpsons Halloween Special on TV! Perfect!

  6. I am Quinn. Except a bit older. Which means my mother doesn’t come running after me anymore. But, yeah.

    From the sound of it, you managed to deal with it all pretty awesomely. I would have joined Quinn under the bed and not come out again. So go you! And I’m glad for your sake that it’s over for another year. :)

    • I just read your post. It was great. “Sometimes our biggest frustrations or disappointments have less to do with how something is and more in our expectations of how it should be.” <— I think that is so right on about pretty much everything in life. Brilliant. I'm really glad that Halloween went well for your kiddos this year. I totally get the anxiety that goes into it, especially with parking and timing issues that you had to deal with.

  7. Confession time: I hate carving pumpkins. HATE. IT. I hate the looming menace of the serrated edge knife threatening to sever my fingers as I try to force recalcitrant pumpkin flesh to yield. I hate scooping the pumpkins clean, because my husband lurves roasted pumpkin seeds and thus forces me to separate seeds from slimy pulp with surgical precision; can’t waste any, he says! My kids aren’t really into it either; they draw the faces on with a Sharpie and run off to play Wii, leaving the dangerous and dirty work to me. Every year I’m tempted to go to Michaels, buy one of those precarved foam pumpkins that the squirrels won’t eat, stick a battery-powered tealight in it, and call it a holiday…and yet I don’t. Some sort of madness about wanting my family to partake in certain traditions even if they don’t actually *like* the traditions, I suppose. I’ve been assuming that time and nostalgia will make these memories sweet for them in a way that I suspect “My mom used to stick the foam pumpkin out on the porch every Halloween” might not. So we persevere, in hopes that in the end the sweet memories outnumber the dull, unpleasant, and/or traumatic ones. They inevitably do, so take comfort in that.

    I’m so sorry your Halloween was so rough, although it sounds as though you handled everything well. Next time, don’t hesitate to call us if you’re stuck–we’d be happy to take Jack and Quinn trick-or-treating with us.

    When Rachel was younger, she was every inch a Quinn when it came to Halloween. She wouldn’t wear a costume–definitely no masks!–unless it was a not-costume that looked exactly like her regular clothes and required a healthy dose of imagination to envision. And the Halloween parties–especially in preschool–went badly. She couldn’t tolerate the costumes, noise, food, and chaos for long, and she’d eventually just crawl under a festive orange tablecloth and shut down. She still can’t take the parties for more than 10 minutes; the difference is that now, in Asperger’s program, she and her classmates have a quiet, safe space to escape to when the chaos becomes too much, and because she is *in* that program, no one gives her a hard time about it. (It totally helped that her K-3 teacher *hated* Halloween at school for exactly the same reason Rachel and Quinn do, and he was adamant about making that quiet, safe space available and as accessible as possible.)

    There are many benefits of (and just plain good practices of) the Asperger’s program that I wish would be extended to *all* the kids at school, not just those in the program. This is one of them. I’ve made this suggestion to the principal before, but because she’s…her…she’s never seriously considered it.

    You did the right things and did them well, even if it didn’t seem so at the time. No one ended up bleeding. Everyone got some candy. That’s all that matters, really. Deep breath. Things can only go uphill from here. Call me if you need anything at all.

  8. I am so glad to hear that I am not the only parent who hates carving pumpkins. It’s gross, messy and hard. The kids don’t actually do anything except give you orders. I hate it. But the rest of the family insists we do it. DH actually insists we cook the pumpkin seeds too. I refuse to take part in this project (except to throw them away in a few weeks because nobody will actually eat that many).

    I don’t actually mind the trick or treating part since DH takes the kids (in the rain) house to house.

  9. Hi,
    It seems you handled Halloween rather well, all things considered. Love the minecraft theme … now that I know what minecraft IS. :)
    So, Halloween is my least favorite of all the holidays, for many reasons you cite. Completely understand being fearful at Halloween. Yikes!
    Of course, as kids, we knew all of our neighbors, AND my Mom made adorable Halloween costumes. [One year, my sister and I were pumpkins. We had little green felt hats, and green tights. So adorable!]
    However, I was *terrified* when the big kids would stop by our house late in the evening. For some reason, they always dressed as hobos. [And not the cute Hobo handbags. :) ]
    Now, my apt building has a Halloween party for the little kids, a couple days before Halloween. And, they provide signs to post on your door if you welcome trick-or-treaters. I opted out this year.
    Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years? Now, those are excellent holidays!
    PS: That is a great drawing of a cat.

      • Hi, First, noooooo! Hobos?
        Secondly, here is my taxonomy of scarey things … in no particular order:
        Zombie hobos
        Hipsters :)
        Down escalators
        Moving sidewalks
        Icy sidewalks
        Ice skating
        Uneven surfaces, in general
        That’s all … I won’t mention them again. OK, well, I might. :)

  10. I’ve always poo-pooed those Trunk or Treat events as being lame, but I really think one of those may be a better option for your family. They’re usually held earlier in the day before it gets dark, and would be lower-key and less pressure because you’re just in a parking lot walking between cars. The downside would be that if Quinn does get scared, he wouldn’t be able to hide under his bed while working through it.

  11. Oh man, poor Quinn! I feel for the kid and you! (and maybe Alex could skip next years Phish concert?) Hope the weekend has given everyone time to recover.

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