Halloween partying, popularity, horror & my insanity

Halloween Partying

I did double-duty at the school on Friday that started with the costume parade and class parties.
I’ll have better pictures of the kiddos later but we opted on a dinosaur costume for Bode and Hadley went as the White Witch (Narnia is her favorite movie).

Jamie would like me to add he was not a part of the dinosaur choice because he said it was too “cutesy.”

I say what is a KINDERGARTNER if not cute?!

My horror

As I was waiting for the kids’ costume parade in the gym, I struck up a conversation to the gal next to me whom I swear I’ve never seen before. A few minutes into talking, she mentioned her twins–one boy and one girl.

And then it slowly started coming to me. You know the one: the dreadful feeling when you realize you somehow know that person but had forgotten them. I tried to cover my tracks by saying, “Wait a minute. You live in my neighborhood and our kids were at the same bus stop last year.” Nice.

But it got worse. The woman knew everything about me. “I saw you on The Marriage Ref and you totally should have won etc. etc. etc.”

My bad memory and Jamie’s pumpkin are ruining my life.


And the most popular kid in second grade is…


You know. My kindergartner.

Going to school with that kid is like going to school with Norm from Cheers. His besties in kindergarten adore him and after volunteering in Haddie’s class, he and I eat in the lunchroom with her. This time, I kid you not, the second grade boys fought over who got to sit with him. Then, afterward, they begged me to let him stay and play Yoshi on the playground. As they were lining up, they insisted Bode give them all high-fives.

I guess sometimes, nice guys do finish first.

My Insanity

My friend posted a fabulous tutorial on how to make Halloween cake pops. If you’ve never heard of them, allow me to enlighten you: these little cakes on a stick are nothing short of moist and amazing (this, from a non-cake eater). And so I thought they’d be fun to make for the kids’ Halloween party.

There was nothing fun about making them.

Really, it was my fault. Between the kids’ two classes, there were 50 pops. And then my ward’s trunk-or-treat was that night and I’d signed up to bring a treat. Add in the women I visit teach and I was well over a hundred.

And so I made three different cakes: red velvet, vanilla and spice and spent the entire day slaving in the kitchen. I’m not exaggerating: THESE LITTLE GHOSTS TOOK ME SEVEN HOURS TO MAKE.
The positive: They were met with many rave reviews.
The negative: Some kids took them but didn’t bother eating them. I wanted to grab their little sugar-stuffed cheeks and scream,”DO YOU KNOW HOW LONG THOSE TOOK ME TO MAKE?”

Perhaps becoming emotionally invested in a treat is dangerous on many levels.

After spending seven hours on my still-recovering knee, I could barely walk. But the caveat came when I was carrying the laundry down the stairs later that day. Workers had been there cleaning our carpet and the floors were still damp. I slipped. I slammed. I slid. I threw out my back and injured my arm.

I’m going as myself for Halloween this year.

Because that is scary enough.

The Great Pumpkin’s Mushroom Kingdom

Halloween is almost anti-climactic after all the pumpkin patches, parties, weigh-offs and trunk-or-treats.

This year, the kids opted for a Mario Bros. theme. Bode’s hero is Mario and Hadley begged to be Yoshi, his sidekick dinosaur. Bode’s costume was easy: I went to the local thrift store where I found overalls and a red shirt. I bought the actual Mario hat from the Halloween store.

I’ll admit I wasn’t too thrilled about Yoshi so when I couldn’t find a costume in Hadley’s size, I proposed she dress up as Princess Peach, the damsel in distress in Mario’s ficticious Mushroom Kingdom.

Just pretend they are posing with The Great Mushroom.

If you know Hadley’s aversion to all things princess, you would realize what a risky move this was. Somewhere, at sometime, a princess did her wrong and these royal wenches represent all that is evil in the world.

Fortunately, due to her affection for Mario, she made the exception to be Peach.

Though she did have the pageant girl wave down at her school parade.

On Saturday, we had a busy day with soccer games and a playdate with Aunt Lisa while Jamie and I auditioned at the Marriage Ref. That night was the trunk-or-treat at the church. Knowing they would get loaded up on sugar, I fed them a healthy dinner. Thirty seconds prior, Bode professed to be starving to death and proceeded to eat half his weight in food.

“My tummy is sooooo full,” he moaned.

I thought he was exaggerating until it was time to go to the trunk-or-treat an hour later. He refused, with the same complaint.

“Bode, don’t you realize you’re going to go to a place where they are going to stuff you full of candy?” I queried.

“Don’t care. My tummy is too full.”

I don’t know how a kid like that came out of me.

He bounced back on Halloween and we joined our neighborhood revelries with a fire-truck-led procession, followed by trick-or-treating.

The local Medved dealership sponsored our parade and brought this Camero. It was love at first sight for the Lord of the Gourds.

Please don’t ask me how many times he made me retake this photo in order to best showcase his dream car.

As you can imagine, visiting the house of The Great Pumpkin makes us a VERY popular stop for picture-taking.

Next year, I’m charging a fee.

All these were fun times but my favorite moment came earlier that day when I attempted to clean up the house. As I swept the kitchen floor, the Lord of the Gourds commented:

“You’re the best looking thing with a broom today.”

‘Bout time someone recognized it.

Happy Halloween!

On humiliating and being humiliated

When Jamie and I moved into our current ward six years ago, we were remiss to leave our former congregation. Within a few months, my now-friend Lisa invited us to join an informal dinner group with some other couples.

Six years later, we’re still going strong. After participating in numerous parties that have included a murder mystery, Christmases and BBQs, these people are among our dearest friends.
Though looking at these pictures of our latest dinner/Halloween party one might ask “why.”

There is absolutely no proof that Red Riding Hood’s grandma/wolf is also our bishop.

Though his/her/its smock is lovely.

Evidently good Mormon folk crank out convicts & witches.

But Lisa should have been arrested for letting her husband Phil wear these pants in public.

Lawyer-turned-rock-star or not.

In addition to killer finger food (not literally), our delightful hostess Wendy had a full line-up of games perfectly choreographed to entertain and humiliate.

No commentary is needed.

Of course, no Halloween party is complete without the mummy wrap. I did the honors to my beloved James (you may see his little green pumpkin stem shooting out the top).

But there was none more creative than what the Big, Bad Wolf did to Little Red Riding Hood: two rolls of toilet paper…on her head (she’s the far left).

Forget swallowing someone whole; suffocation is a far more optimal strategy.

Though neither Jamie or I were feeling well, we had a blast. Really, the only person who was a bit wary of the whole thing was Bode. When Jamie took him to pick up our babysitter, Bode had one request:

“Daddy, can you have Mommy take off her make-up when we get home?”
“Why, Bode? Does it scare you?”

I can’t imagine why.

The party’s over

Halloween a.k.a. my month-long party is over.

Well, month-and-a-half-long party if you count back to mid-September when I put out the decorations (much to Jamie’s dismay).

In the end, we had really easy costumes: Bode wanted to be a firefighter (again) and Haddie opted for a bat. I simply resurrected the bodysuit from her kitty costume last year, found a pair of butterfly wings at the thrift store that I spray-painted black, styled her hair into bat ears and had Jamie make her a mask.

Cheapest Halloween ever.

We participated in our neighborhood’s annual parade and the procession was led by a fire truck, perfect for the little firefighter himself.

And hung out with our neighborhood besties.

It was the first year the kids really got into trick-or-treating and wanted to venture beyond just our block.

Because they figured out more houses = more candy.

I did not approve of Haddie’s choice to be a bat and cringed every time she made me do online research about them. She wanted to be a “mean bat” and was repeatedly annoyed when folks would comment how “cute” she was.

Bats are not cute, people. They are creepy, scary and ugly.

I mourned when I took down the decorations and lamented to Jamie, “Now that Halloween is over, what do I have to look forward to?”

Jamie: “How about Christmas? You know. Jesus‘ birthday.”

Oh yeah. That.

Ever wonder where my Halloween obsession comes from? Checkout my parent’s house in Calgary:

That picture is not even including the blow-up giant pumpkin on their lawn.

And my brother Jade’s “Duct Man” costume this year.

Still searching for an explanation for this one.

This week in mommy blogger history

So, we’ve been busy.

Getting snowed in with record-breaking snowfall and trying out the kids’ new shovels.

Building snow caves.

And yes, we’re in Colorado (though it looks a lot like Canada)

Playing with the newest addition to our family.

Making a Dry Ice Crystal Ball at our annual Halloween bash.

(And miraculously, I did not blow up the house).

Making “Incredibly” eerie ghost sounds with balloons.

(I learned all these cool science experiments at a Steve Spangler Science event I attended. Checkout Mile High Mamas Creative Corner for more fun ideas).

And just being cute.

(Hadley is second from the left and had long since removed her bat costume. Bode is a firefighter on the front row).

The in-laws rushed their move along and were thrilled to leave this week because they “did not want to move in winter.”

Sucks to be them.

Grumpy Old Woman

Mom Canuck always said if you can’t say something nice, don’t say it at all.

Which is why I’m not saying much this week.

I had to postpone Haddie’s annual Halloween bash because this plague is still leveling me and I haven’t slept in days.

Does bronchitis feel like death? If so, I think I’m suffering from both.

Speaking of death, we were sad to hear of the passing of our friend (and bishop) Darrin’s grandfather. Of course, he was likely in his late 80s and such a passing is to be celebrated. Since Jamie and I have been so near death the past few weeks, we discussed our ideal age to meet the grave.

Me: “I want to live until I’m 89. Only if I’m healthy, of course.”

Jamie: “No way. 85 tops.”

Me: “Yeah, you’re right. You’re going to be a grumpy old man.”

Jamie (glaring at me): “I wonder why.”


On another note: what do you do when you’re bored out of your mind and can’t sleep all night?

The Monster Mash, of course.

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Note: Family Member #5 is the kitty that will be joining our family next week. That’s blog fodder just waiting to happen.

A happy ending to a sad, sad tale

The Johnson clan is FINALLY on the mend. Of course, we’re not fully recovered enough to go on an epic backpacking trip this weekend to Coyote Gulch with friends Dave and Rebecca that we have been planning for MONTHS.

Serious bummer.

We barely left the house all week but braved the cold and snow to attend our town’s scarecrow festival last Saturday. Like the mythical phoenix borne out of ashes, there was a happy ending to The Great Pumpkin Massacre of 2009. Haddie and Bode’s pumpkin didn’t have a leaf on it after the hail storm but it rebounded over the course of a month and Jamie finally got it to pollinate on August 31.

We only had about two weeks of good growing weather and Jamie cut it off the vine a few days before the competition. Or rather, I should say he dragged his sick family out in the cold and snow to witness the vine-cutting ceremony.

Because surely this momentous occasion could not have waited an extra hour for the snow to subside.

And The Great Phoenix Pumpkin’s final weight? 85.5 pounds. This is 0.5 pounds bigger than Haddie’s pumpkin last year with a growing season that was cut in half. It was starting to turn orange but was never on the vine long enough to fully convert. Some picture-perfect moments:

Father and daughter in their matching pumpkin geek hats:

Their pumpkin was the second biggest in the children’s division. Haddie and Bode received a ribbon and they took home a $30 gift certificate. For some families, their trophy case looks like this.

Sadly, this is only a small sampling of ours.

Which Witch is Which (and other Salem findings)

Our Halloween celebrations are in full swing and I am lovin’ life these days. It could be the cooler temperatures or the fun decorations. Or maybe it’s the parties, costume parades or the abundance of pumpkins for this pumpkin-obsessed family. And not to be forgotten is the emergence of my ghost salad tongs.

What? Like your mom doesn’t send you salad tongs for every season.

As aforementioned, Jamie and I went to Boston for one of the world’s largest pumpkin weigh-offs at The Topsfield Fair. He was as giddy as a kid in a candy storea grown man freaking out over big pumpkins.

And I’m not talking about the female variety.
I admittedly don’t have room to talk. I relished being in a region that celebrates fall and Halloween. Where every other house was decorated, pumpkins were revered and where Salem’s witch population provides for great entertainment.

Just so long as you stay on their good side.

Jamie and I stayed at Fox Pond B&Bin Marblehead, a quaint coastal town outside of Salem. Our first night, we really wanted some fresh seafood so upon the recommendation of the B&B’s owner we ate at The Barnacle, a cozy seafood haunt on the water. I am not much of a seafood lover but make the exception “When in Rome” and resolved to try some shrimp or lobster.

Until I was told that pumpkin ravioli with butternut squash cream sauce was the daily special. And how was it?

Think deli scene from When Harry Met Sally.

But really, the must-see destination for any Halloween lover was Salem. There was a profusion of fall colors, oodles of tacky tourists vying to see the sundry of witch museums and best of all, witches. Or at least folks dressed up as them.

More than 40,000 people descend upon Salem in October. My only goal was to buy something that I could display every year so I could profess we bought it from The Witch Capital of the World.

Easier said than done.

I dragged Jamie to all the tacky tourist stores and I was tempted by their wares but never swayed.

Until I saw IT. The bain to my wenchy…errr…witchy existence: a witch’s hat with flowing tendrils. It was like the Sorting Hat on Harry Potter. From the moment I put it on, it knew me and I knew we had been separated at birth.

Unfortunately, Jamie was not in agreement. Much to his chagrin, I insisted upon wearing The Hat the rest of the day and he had his own coping mechanisms for our new addition.

“Why are you not walking with me?” I accused.
“I am walking with you. It’s just far away.”

And so it is in the life of a witch.

The Lord of the Gourd: A Q&A

Thank you for your overwhelming support for The Great Pumpkin. So many questions, so much sympathy re: my neglected status. I have been asked what our real garden is like and my answer? What garden? Jamie says the reason our garden did not flourish is due to a pesky vole.

I say the reason was the inordinate about of time spent on The Great Pumpkin.

Jamie could not keep up with all the great comments about his 755-pound beast so, for the first time ever, The Great Lord of the Gourds is making his first verbatim appearance on my blog. Join me in welcoming him as he answers some of your questions! (And please excuse the spacing issues on this post; evidently The Great Pumpkin even defies HTML regulations).

1) So did massive amount of Miracle Gro go into this bad boy or what’s the secret?

This pumpkin was grown completely organic, including the small boy up the street that it ate three weeks ago.It was sad to see the boy go but the pumpkin put on 40 pounds that day. Many growers will use MiracleGro and the like to grow giant pumpkins but most of the heavy hitters go completely organic so they can build up the soil and plant on the same spot year after year.

2) What are your plans for The Great Pumpkin?

We are going to cut a hole into the top of it like a Kayak, put it in a lake and paddle around.It is plenty big and buoyant enough to use it as a boat for an adult. Editor’s note: Dear Lord, please do not let The Great Pumpkin sink. I cannot bear to see a grown man cry.

3) How much pumpkin pie will that thing make? And pumpkin bread, cake.

Mmmmm. Love the pumpkin bread. Unfortunately, Dill’s Giant Atlantic variety pumpkins aren’t very good eating I’m told. Editor’s note: thank heavens for this response. Gutting and cooking up that pumpkin would be akin to life as a hunter’s wife.

4) Wow. I’m trying to imagine how much watering/care/etc. a giant pumpkin takes. And yard space!

This pumpkin plant was 30 feet wide by 30 feet long.The pumpkin didn’t fill the entire space but it did take a full 600 square feet of space.Once the plant was completely grown (about 1.5 months old) it was given about 2.5 inches of water per week.I usually tended to the plant about 30-60 minutes per day although Amber would tell you it was about
3-6 hours per day. Editor’s note: And Amber would be correct.

5) When I picture this whole thing in my mind …I just have to laugh. The great pumpkin? The whole pumpkin hobby? The planning of vacations and weekends around what else? Pumpkins! Expound.

Some call it obsession, others passion.Let’s be honest however. How many of us have planned our day around a television show(s) or other fruitless endeavors. At least mine produced some fruit. Actually a whole lot of it! lol

6) I will have to consult with your husband next
year. LONG have I wanted to grow pumpkins, but all three times I’ve tried the vines have sort of melted. Overwatering? General gardening lameness?

Melted?Hmmmm.I would say go to Denver Pumpkins and read what I did.If you start from the very first post you can get a blow by blow of the entire pumpkin season.If that doesn ’t work I’d suggest selling your hoe and giving your shovel a rest. Editor’s note: I’ve been called a lot of things but hoe is probably the most offensive.

7) I’m assuming conversation is going to turn to the new crop, it’s not to early to start planning, is it? What are next year’s plans?

Next years plans are for more pumpkins and a new patch.This year I grew at my parent’s house.That freaked them out the first half of the growing season so I am now going to be growing in the farmer’s field behind my house. Something about yelling at my mom for not throwing her body over the pumpkin plant, like a soldier throwing himself on a grenade, during the 2nd hail storm of the season didn’t sit very well with her (I think my parents actually started enjoying it as the season went on however because it is really kind of fun watching the monster grow).

I have already had a soil test done on the field and have started to purchase the proper amendments to make sure the soil is to world class levels next spring. In the coming weeks I will be adding 5 yards of manure and many pounds of organic fertilizers and minerals to the soil.Next year I will have 3 plants (one for the kids) which will allow me to push the pumpkins a little harder in the hopes of getting to 1,000 pounds. Editor’s note: Great. That means I have a one-week vacation before pumpkin season starts all over again.

8) This might be a stupid question, but when you cut open this giant pumpkin, are the seeds giant, or normal size seeds? Just curious. That’s a great family photo! Jamie doesn’t name the pumpkin does he?

Giant pumpkin seeds tend to be a little bigger than the regular pumpkin seeds. They usually have a harder shell too. This year’s pumpkin’s name is DillBoy. Howard Dill is the inventor of Dill’s Giant Atlantic pumpkin seeds that all of the top growers use for competition.He passed away in May due to cancer.The seed that I grew on actually came from Howard so I name the pumpkin DillBoy in honor of him. Editor’s note: it is sentimental talk like this that makes me worried the man will indeed bury me inside of a pumpkin. Lord, please don’t let me go

9) My question for your interview with Linus (er, Jamie)…how lucky are you to have a wife who not only allows the growing of the Great Pumpkin…but also throws a party for said pumpkin?

I couldn ’t agree with you more.My good wife not only put up with the pumpkin growing, but early in the season surprised me for Father’s Day with a trip for the two of us toTopsfield, Salem and Boston so I could go to the granddaddy of big pumpkin weigh-offs in Topsfield, Massachusetts.

The pumpkin party was completely my idea however.She said more than once “Who is going to go to a pumpkin party? And what are people going to do at a pumpkin party?”My answer, “Stare at the pumpkin.”She just said “whatever” to my reply until it dawned on her that I had invited some of her friends to the party and they had actually accepted. Horror struck my Party Princess wife when she realized that I was serious!

In the end, when the party was all done and the 30-40 guests had all gone home with smiles on their faces that a giant pumpkin has a strange sort of power. We all grew up reading children’s books with abnormally sized objects (fruit, shoes, beanstalks, eggs, candy, vegetables).
As a result we kind of think of the whole giant thing as kind of whimsical thing that is way outside of reality.When you see a giant pumpkin for the first time it so breaks the mold of our accepted reality that we have to stare at it in wonder. The typical question, “Is it real or is it fiberglass?” is understandable because the whole thing doesn’t make any sense.How could food be that big?It is like staring at a children’s story book come to life.But then you touch it and stare at it some more the whole thing slowly becomes wonderful because it is like a children’s story book come to life.What could be better than seven hundred pounds of wonderful food all in a single fruit!? Editor’s note: sniff. No comment. Maybe I am a sentimental pumpkin-lovin’ fool after all….

Party All the Time

Reader beware: there will be an inordinate amount of pictures posted this week because this is what happens in the life of a Halloween-obsessed person. Last weekend, we trunk-or-treated and partied.

There were also fall walks-
Pumpkin patch fun-
And cute babies in general.

And not to be forgotten is Haddie’s 3rd annual Halloween party (which inspired yet another one of Hunky Hubby’s great profundities).


On Friday, my daughter threw her third annual Halloween bash that included an inordinate amount of hairspray and the disturbing confirmation: Like Mother, Like Daughter. [Insert evil cackle here.]

We also played games such as Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin, indulged in devilish epicurean creations including my green slime chocolate fountain, read a haunting story with Dora the Explorer who made a celebrity appearance and had a free-for-all civilized candy hunt in our backyard.

No children were harmed in the throwing of the celebration. However, there was one tired mama at the end of it all. Between the party, trips and the continuous barrage of Rockies games, it has been a very long time since we have just stayed home and relaxed.

I called my husband to ask if we could do just that. Now, something you need to understand is he is usually the one who, after his long work day, is harassed by your truly to go out. This time, The Man took full advantage of our role reversal.

“…and so I thought we could just stay in tonight.”

“Stay in, Amber? We’ve done nothing but stay in. I want to go play”

“But I’m really tired.”

“Tired? Aren’t you the one who always says ‘I am sick of being at home. We need to go out and do something. The kids need a break. Let’s go for a walk. Super Target is having a sale. Let’s go spy on the neighbors. Blah blah blah blah blah.’”

Note: The Man’s mimicking was executed in a high-pitched voice that I assure you I do not possess. Except for when it was a particularly shrill-inducing kind of day.

After several minutes of this, I finally sighed and waved my white flag.

“OK, Jamie you win. So what do you want to do? ”