Halloween 2013: A wig-fighting, sugar-coma-inducing great time

Confession: I often look enviously at families who dress up to a theme at Halloween because that likely ain’t ever going to happen. I mean, just look at my friend Lisa’s clan as the Adams Family.

Her husband is a plastic surgeon. I can only imagine the transformations they’ll undergo in the future. :-)

Jamie isn’t the dress-up type (besides his lame pumpkin hat) and my kids prefer mainstream (read: boring) costumes.  But I guess I’ll take what I can get with Luigi and Harry Potter’s Bellatrix Lestrange, right?
I won’t mention the “creative differences” Hadley and I had regarding her wig she begged me to buy but then later deemed “too big.”
Girl wouldn’t last even one day with my ‘fro.

With the kids in two different schools, I’m normally racing around to their different schedules but Halloween worked to my advantage. Bode’s party was in the morning.

While Hadley’s was in the afternoon.Note the lack of wig. You win some, you lose some.

I made oodles of tasty pumpkin treats all week including pumpkin muffins and pumpkin pancakes with caramel apple cream cheese syrup. Papa John’s was advertising their pumpkin-shaped pizzas and I admittedly have become a pizza snob, refusing to buy the disgusting sodium-drenched frozen ones and only occasionally indulging in greasy restaurant pies for our family’s traditional Friday Pizza & Movie Nights. Our homemade ones are so much tastier with our backcountry honey pizza crusts.

Basically, my goal was for us not to eat anything healthy on Halloween. Mission accomplished!

Our neighborhood is about as family-friendly as it gets and Halloween is a non-stop party! We met at the fire station a stone’s throw away from my house for treats, drinks, pictures and friends.

Fun at the fire station

Then set out on a parade that was led by one of the fire trucks.
Two different kids, same Minecraft costume. Can someone please explain to me how that was one of the most popular costumes this year? “Look how cute Timmie looks. Oh wait. His head is a block.”

Jamie and I usually swap off taking the kids trick-or-treating and staying home to hand out candy. But this year, my feet were killing me so Jamie was on Operation Get Candy duty.  They came back after only 20 minutes with half-full buckets. Good mom that I am, I sent ‘em back out ’til this babies were full. Mama has an Almond Joy sweet tooth to fill.

Judging from their sugar coma, I’d say Halloween ’13 was a success.

The Tale of Two Giant Pumpkins

It’s always a bit of a letdown when Halloween is over, particularly when I have a house chock full of decorations to remove. This year was one of our favorites ever because of all the parties and pumpkins. A friend commented, “You seem to have posted more pumpkin pictures on Facebook than usual this year.” Not sure if she meant it as a compliment or critique but I’ll take it as the former.

The murder of Stanley the Pumpkin

Usually we put the Great Pumpkin on the driveway and it sits there ’til Halloween. This year, our friend Phil generously lent us his flatbed trailer for the entire month so the Great Pumpkin sat in front of our house while also going to fall festivals and the kids’ schools.

Next year: world tour?

But there’s a sad tale about Jamie’s 1,220-pound beast, Stanley. About a week after we got him professionally carved, he started rotting out quickly and then the squirrels came in for the attack. With as much pomp and circumstance as Stanley came into the world, his was a quiet, dignified death as Jamie cut him up and composted him back into the pumpkin patch a couple of weeks ago. Sniff.

So, pumpkin No. 2 “Elbert” was the shining star for Halloween. Weighing in at only 695 pounds, Elbert was the ugly, warty step-sister but still shone brightly last night.

It’s a tradition for kids to pose every Halloween with the Great Pumpkin, like our darling neighbors

Our neighborhood is renowned for having great trick-or-treating so we get a lot of transplants who bilk our treats and festivities. I don’t mind but I can always tell who they are because they marvel at how big it is i.e. “that is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen!”

On the other hand, the kids in our area have seen it all month so we only got complaints from them. “What happened to the big one!?”

High-maintenance, I tell ya. They didn’t know how good they had it.

For details of Stanley’s demise, go to Jamie’s blog denverpumpkins.com. Also, stay tuned for details on our Halloween festivities!


The Ward Halloween Party: A Doughnut-eating, Jell-O Dunking Great Time!

Every year, our LDS church congregation puts on a gangbusters Halloween party with carnival games, trick-or-treating and lots of tasty food.  This was the year of Harry Potter–we read the books and watched the movies so Hadley’s costume de choix? None other than the evil Bellatrix Lestrange. Bode begged to be Mario for the third year in the row but I put a kibosh on that. Kind of.

Bellatrix Lestrange versus Luigi

In keeping with tradition, I present the pumpkin and his widow.
Is there any wonder why I’m crazy about this guy?

The young women in our ward manned the booths and I attempted to assist the poor, stressed-out gal reattaching the doughnuts on a string. Until I realized she was replacing the entire string for every person. When I told her that wasn’t necessary, she primly cited hygienic concerns.

Bellatrix needed her wand for this one.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her about the slobber-fest-that-is-bobbing-for-apples of my youth.

Monitoring the Jell-O eating contest was more my speed and I was proud when Luigi won not one, not two, but three in a row.

The pie-eating contest a few weeks ago must have served as a great training ground.

Of course, the party wouldn’t be nearly as fun without our besties. I got a bit teary-eyed at church last week as I looked at the many fabulous friends my children have and what stellar, righteous, fun and hard-working families they have. All of them are tremendous examples to us.

Bellatrix and Cinderella; Luigi and the boys; Bellatrix vs.Hermione showdown

Really, the only fail that night was my refreshment. I’ve been pinning oodles of creative treat ideas on Pinterest but when push came to shove, I only had 15 minutes to pull something together and so this is what we concocted.
Many friends complimented me on my puking pumpkin but I brushed them off. Obviously they do not know the grandeur that is Pinterest. Better luck next party!

A Frightfully Fun Hotel Stay at Nightmare on Curtis Street

After a while, Halloween memories start to blur together. Dress up, trick-or-treat, gorge on candy. Lather, rinse, repeat. But last weekend, my family experienced a Halloween event we will never forget. We attended the Nightmare on Curtis Street at the Curtis – A DoubleTree by Hilton. Each year during the month of October, the Curtis Hotel in downtown Denver, Colorado transforms its 13th floor into a haunted house for a most memorable Halloween.

The Curtis – A Doubletree Hotel

This family-friendly, pop-culture hotel is dedicated to all things quirky. Case in point: last summer’s pop-up, inflatable room that rose 22 feet in the air.

The hallway of each of the 16 floors boasts a different theme, like One-hit Wonders, Big Hair, and Dance. The playful lobby hosts impromptu hula hoop contests and offers board games for check-out as well as a small book-filled library.

The 13th floor’s theme is Horror. I’m not the ghost-hunting type and at ages 7 and 9, neither are my kids. I’d think twice about staying somewhere that claimed to be legitimately haunted but I took a gamble that my family would love Nightmare on Curtis Street.

Click to keep reading our fun experiences and why my children may have clown issues after this.

Halloween 2012: The Slime Bucket, Digging for Eyeballs and the Pumpkin’s Celebrity Encounter

This year, Jamie was delighted when The Great Pumpkin had an encounter with celebrity. TaRhonda Thomas of 9News fame was at our house interviewing me for an unrelated story and was flabbergasted with what she found when she pulled up to the house. And unlike some broadcast journalists I’ve worked with in the past (read: snobby), she’s every bit as fun and lovely as she appears in the picture.

One of the bonuses of having kids at different schools is they had their Halloween parties at different times so I was able to give each of them my undivided attention. I started with little B. The volunteers were divided up into different stations. The Room Mom asked if I wanted to do the craft.

“Err, no thanks,” I politely declined.
“Really? You look like the crafty type,” she responded.

I assure you that’s the first time THAT has ever happened.

I instead volunteered for the messy slime bucket, which was green jello that was refrigerated with plastic body parts. To demonstrate, I stuck my hand in it and pretended it was getting devoured. What’s Halloween without a bit of traumatizing?

For Dorothy’s party, she was thrilled she was the kid who got to put the finishing touches on her teacher’s mummy wrap and did a muzzle over her mouth.
I’m sure she was thinking, “That’s for all that miserable math homework.”

They did plenty of crafts and games and once again, I volunteered for the messiest of them all (sensing a pattern here?): Searching for eyeballs (marbles) in a mass of brains (spaghetti) with their feet. Disgusting. Especially when the brains got accidentally flicked down my shirt.

That evening, we met at our fire station where they handed out drinks, cupcakes, cookies, free HarperCollins children’s books and then a fire truck led a parade.

From the archives: 3-yr-old Bode at the parade. #Love

Our neighborhood pretty much rocks Halloween.

This is the first year we’ve been able to carve The Great Pumpkin because it’s usually rotting down the driveway. Since the weather was so nice (it’s been 70 degrees), we sat on the porch to hand out candy and could hear the stunned reactions of the trick-or-treaters. A large crowd was usually congregated around the pumpkin to take pictures. The Pumpkin Man was in his element.

Our neighbor Steve told us his wife Angella took a picture of their family with The Great Pumpkin. She’s a pharmaceutical rep and made it into a card to hand out to various doctor’s offices and clients. He said it was an awesome conversation-starter and opened a lot of doors.

Next year, I’m demanding a commission.

Mother of the Year Advice: How to comfort a child

On Sunday morning, I found sweet Bode melted down in a pool of tears in my bathroom. I had sent him in there to scrub off his Mario mustache from our ward Halloween party the previous night. His attempts were in vain.
“Oh, don’t worry, Sweetie. You won’t be the first 6-year-old to go to church with a mustache!”

Apple Dunking and Halloween Bashing!

Saturday was our ward’s annual Halloween party. The youth were in charge, which means as a youth leader I was a part of the planning and implementation.
Pretty much, I have the best calling ever working with these beautiful young women.

Jamie and I wore our annual costumes. I was the pumpkin widow dressed in black (see my shirt) and Jamie was (what else?) a pumpkin.
It’s like art imitating real life. Every. Single. Day.

We just finished reading the 100th Anniversary edition of Wizard of Oz that I bought as a souvenir in Coronado Island. Much to my delight, Hadley shunned the pop culture costumes of many of her peers and opted to be Dorothy.

Bode, on the other hand? He spotted a Mario costume at the thrift store and the begging began. “Bode, you were Mario two years ago. Don’t you want to be _______” and I listed off a number of costumes. Obviously, I lost.

Blurry action shot eating doughnuts on a string

We had a spookiest appetizer/dessert contest so I whipped up a graveyard 7-Layer Dip. I got a ton of compliments on it but it was a result of improvisation. We didn’t have any refried beans so I used Madras Lentils (my fave wintertime lunch) and layered sour cream, cheese, green onions, salsa and guacamole. For the graveyard, I cut and baked some red chile tortillas into tombstones, a cat and a ghost.
I thought I did a pretty good job until I saw my friend Wendy’s entry.

The young men were in charge of a haunted grove in the forest behind the church.

Teenagers with a real chainsaw = terrifying.

The young women stayed inside and oversaw all the carnival games.

Best. Bean bag toss. Ever.

And then there was the most unsanitary game of them all: bobbing for apples. In sixth grade, I had a Halloween party that will go down in infamy as The Best Party Ever and I still wear my Queen Apple Bobber Badge proudly. When the young women taunted me to do it, I rose to the challenge.

Or rather, bent way, way over for it. Haddie and Bode joined me and I dove in preparing to leave them in my salivated-apple-bobbing wake. When all of a sudden, I was being submerged way way way under. I flew up sputtering, only to realize my own husband dunked me.

It’s a good thing we drove separately; otherwise dude would have walked home.

Haddie ended up being the winningest apple bobber of the night. As it turns out, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.


A warning to parents everywhere regarding Halloween candy “taxes”

I have some bad news for parents who claim a “candy tax” by taking a portion of their kids’ Halloween candy: THEY ARE ONTO US.

On Saturday night, we went to our church’s Halloween party and my kids came home with bucket loads of treats. For the most part, I let them have at it but started putting on the brakes the next day. After all, they have to save their gluttony for The Main Event on Wednesday.

I made a healthy dinner with the one thing my 8-year-old daughter abhors most: eggs. She usually chokes them down but we are entering the tween moody stage (hurray!) and she suddenly thinks she should have a say.

I don’t know when she started thinking this was a democracy, not a dictatorship.

My husband and I have never forced our kids to eat everything on their plates but usually have a bare minimum. If they choose not to eat, they don’t get any food the rest of the night. Period.

So, I gave her our usual ultimatum that she needed to eat five bites and told her I’d later throw in some candy for good measure. But, she’s a stubborn little miss and declared she’d rather go hungry.

That’s when I pulled out the big guns.

I grabbed her bag of candy and started deliberately and methodically eating it. Steam started erupting from her ears and her temperature rose as fast as a thermometer in boiling water.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” she spewed.

“Taking candy taxes,” I calmly responded. “For every minute you sit here, I’m going to have another piece of candy. Oh, look–Butterfinger. Isn’t that your favorite?”


Let’s keep her little revelation just between us.

**The featured pictures is 2-year-old Hadley stuffing her face with suckers at her Halloween party. Girl loves her candy.

Halloween savings and my cake pop trauma

This week, my Denver Post column talks about last year’s cake pop trauma and gives great advice on how to save on Halloween..

Not from me, of course. From an expert. :-)


I love this time of the year — from the harvest festivals to my obsession with eating all things pumpkin.

My favorite shopping day also arrives in the fall.

Sorry, Black Friday zealots, but I’m referencing Nov. 1, that hallowed day when all of the Halloween items just now beginning to show up in stores get marked down 50 percent or more.

Last year, I decided to save money by making my own Halloween treats. I opted for cake pops. If you’ve never tried them, these little single-serve cakes on a stick are especially delectable, and this from a non-cake lover.

I thought they’d be fun for my kids’ Halloween parties at school. As it turns out, there was nothing fun about making them.

Really, it was

Read more: Johnson: The horror of Halloween past signals lessons in smart holiday planning – The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/smart/ci_21655562/horror-halloween-past-signals-lessons-smart-holiday-planning#ixzz285DbDl9C

Halloween defined chez nous

It was a pumpkin carvin’

Jell-o competition eatin’

White Witch and dinosaur posin’

Fire station partying

Neighborhood parade strolling

And candy dreamin’ kind of Halloween.
Hope you had a happy one!