Tag Archives: Family

Chin up, Buttercup, a New Day Dawns

Rang in 2016 with my mother, my mother-in-law, Maddy, Lily, and two of Maddy’s best friends. It made for a very joyous, very full household. We blew noisemakers, threw confetti, lit amateur hour fireworks, twirled sparklers; all in the street in front of my little ten year old house. Fun, simple, sweet – all words I cannot apply to 2015 itself. A sentiment Mads echoed with her NYE countdown, “Okay, guys! Only three minutes left of this TERRIBLE year!” It didn’t help that the last days of said terrible year were filled with tears, as we watched Scottie pack up a U-Haul and move to DC.

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By now, friends reading this know Scott accepted a job offer in VA. A job he was offered the day before Halloween. A job we had to keep mum about, for two months, in case the whole thing fell through. After a six month long struggle to find local employment befitting his talents (aside from a part-time, on-call, secret squirrel gig that required actual disguises and a Beastie Boys “Sabotage” style ride that ended in him hosing the interior of a rental car with projectile vomit), he cast his net wider and, what do ya know, he landed in his old stomping grounds.

MD/VA/DC is home for him, and the job – helping catch international bad guys, behind the virtual wheel of a motion sickness-free desk – excited him. Win, win – right? We certainly never intended to settle in Arizona. This decade long AZ run due only to an unlikely set of freak circumstances. But, by the time he retired from the Army, we’d got comfortable. Sierra Vista was familiar. Life here was easy. A known (sucky, but known) quantity. Oh, and then there was also the matter of the house. The luckless, piece of shit, housing-market-bubble-bought, albatross of a godforsaken house we purchased in 2006. The house we currently can’t sell back to Satan to save our souls.

Already I feel badly for bad-mouthy-blogging my house. It was perfect once. The perfect starter home for two adults in their early 30s and their four year old daughter. And all the beautiful memories made here; they’ll show up in my dreams for the rest of my life! Nonetheless, we were hopelessly stupid home buyers. Coming from a young adulthood of apartment/city-living, the two of us were all, “Gold fixtures? Well that’s perfectly acceptable. And the world’s tiniest backyard? You mean we have a BACK YARD??? Sold!” Five years, one additional daughter, and a heap of material stuff later, we’d outgrown our starter home. Sadly, like a great deal of the United States, we were also underwater on our mortgage, and in one of the worst housing markets in the country.

So, that’s all that’s keeping us here; holding me and the kids hostage. This house, and the difference between what it sold for in 2006 vs. the 50k less it will sell for now. That’s what’s splitting up our family. Funny how the military only did that once, but a bailed-out bank has the power to do so indefinitely. And imagine my complete shock at learning that, because we’ve never been late on a payment, or any payment of any kind – and because our debt was relatively nil and our credit outstanding –we might not be able to prove a “financial hardship.” Because we are responsible adults? Because being financially raped by a pre-recession banking hustle – that is today, without dispute, recognized as having been both inherently and abhorrently corrupt – is just what we get for being young and dumb. But if we’d blown ten credit-card-lender-grand here, and twenty frivolous thousand there, then we would qualify for relief?
Then we’d be primed for a…oh, what do they call it again…a…BAILOUT?!

(DEEP BREATH)

All to say, I’ve stayed behind to deal with the house.

Today my boss called to offer me a job in Alexandria, VA – a stone’s throw from my Scottie. Someone just resigned in our office there, and, “say…just how soon will you be moving out here, anyway?” Excellent question! Soon? Soon-ish? In a wee bit? In a while? A few months from now? Summertime? Next fall? Winter?  Maybe goddamned never?
I had to decline, and ask to be kept in mind.

But, as always, I’m keeping my chin up…like an exceptionally grumpy buttercup.

"dem skies, tho...."

“dem skies, tho….”

Salutations 2015

Oh! Hey there 2015! You startled me!
How are you? Five months old already? Wow. Where does the time go….
Me? Oh yeah, well, you can say I’ve been a little busy.

I don’t know if anyone told you, but I enrolled in college last summer. Adults go back to school all the time, I know, but in my case it wasn’t so much the going back thing as it was more the just going to part. I wasn’t picking up from where I left off at 19 or 20, because at 19 and 20 I didn’t believe in the future. I believed in part-time jobs, all night parties and never marrying or (shudder to think) having children. Little Niki was kind of a shithead, but we forgive her.

All these years later, my placement test slated me for college-level English and Dumb Blonde Math. About two weeks into Dumb Blonde Math I posted the following: “Quotients are welcome to shove an integer up their respective prime factorizations.” My attitude has yet to improve.

There are three remedial math classes I need to complete before tackling a mandatory pummeling in college algebra. I knocked out the first course last semester. This semester, however, I floundered hopelessly in what I believe was the equivalent of 11th grade algebra and/or Dante’s Seventh Circle of the X Y Interception of Hell. Somewhere along the way, I started to write a blog called “7F{(6u+4.2c)-13k(4M-12a+1t)+3.7h = F*ckM*th” but the title alone exhausted me and I passed out in a pool of my own dim-witted tears.

You see, I just took on too much this semester. I assumed, because I’d managed an English and Math course last semester, with an A and B respectively, that I was a not only a mega-genius but also some kind of full-time-working-mother-super-hero-lady-pants.

Which reminds me, at our marriage counselor’s office (don’t worry, we’re fine, we simply require a communication tune-up every now and then) there’s this series of mental health statements you have to rate via electronic tablet before every session. Ranging from “I feel good today,” to “I want to stab my boss in his/her yapping face hole,” – Strongly AgreeAgree; Undecided; Disagree; Strongly Disagree.
The one that never fails to amuse goes: “I feel like I have special powers.”
Yet, next time we go in for a tune-up, there will be no giggles from me. Just a reluctant admission of “Strongly Agree.”

I strongly agree that I thought I had special powers when I took on four online courses – to include Biology 100 and Dumb Blonde Math II – while still a full-time employee, still a full-time mother to a kindergartner and a 13 year old (ALL THE HORMONES), all during the months when my husband retired from a 24 year career in the military (ALL THE MID-LIFE CRISIS) and our lives changed forever. But, to my dismay, I did not manifest the necessary super human strength, and it turns out that I also need to sleep sometimes. Who knew.

Oh, guess what else? Within the framework of a self-paced online math course, it seems my individual pace is “NO.”
Intermingled with “Fuck this shit” and “I wish I were dead.”

So yes, you could say It’s been a rough five months. Far more difficult than I thought it would be, even though I’ve seen people struggle through it before. When I think of the friends and family who worked toward their degrees in similar situations, they have my eternal respect. Heroes and martyrs – all of them.

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In other news, life is good. My girls are still happy, healthy, and doing great in school, and my husband is slowly but surely navigating life as a civilian – the first step of which appears to be mandatory beard growth (which I thought I’d mind at first …but it’s kinda hot). We’re planning to move this summer. Whether that means locally in AZ or ending up on one of the coasts is, as yet, unknown. In fact, there are so many unknowns just now that if I dwell on them for long enough my chest starts pounding and it gets harder and harder to breathe so, I avoid that. I’m keeping the “future-tripping” to a minimum, and the “right now” on blast. A greatly matured yet slightly suspicious Little Niki lives on.

Also, I’m taking a break from school. Not giving up, just pausing for air. I’ll be one of the “go-backers” next year.
But, do me a favor, will you?  Please tell 2016 to be kind to me?
Thanks, 2015. You’re a peach.

Lessons Via Bastards Telling You Painful Stories

Once upon a Christmas Eve while visiting home for the holidays, my step-father, after having consumed his customary seven to eight gallons of cheap, rotgut whiskey, cornered me in the kitchen and apologized, ad nauseam, for being such a gigantic douchebag my whole life. He then elaborated on his sorrow by telling me a story I could have happily lived the rest of my life never having heard.

Before I relay the details of this glorious yuletide tale, (cause shiz about to get real……personal, that is) I want to pre-defend my mother’s honor. She was a very good mom, my mama: sweet, warm, loving, super fun and deeply devoted to her one and only child. As a human being, she is equally stellar: funny, intelligent, strong, reliable, incredibly talented and in possession of a heart as big as the mighty universe. But she came into this world with birth defects, back when ruthless bullying didn’t make the news or launch outraged media campaigns to abolish it, so she suffered. Greatly. Horribly. And, naturally it follows that, with low self esteem so instilled, perhaps she didn’t make the best choices in men. To this she always said, “I didn’t have that many options.” Given the right guidance in life, she may have felt differently. She may have empowered herself and she may have discovered many more desirable options, but that’s just not how our collective cookie crumbled.So….what happened was….

Back in that 2007 Christmas Eve kitchen, with my mother and my boyfriend serving as the audience, my step-father cornered me and muttered sloppy, random apologies about my upbringing over his ethanol-laden breath. Then, out of nowhere, he slurred the following cringe-inducing confession: “I feel bad sometimes…..like for that one time…..that one time me ‘n yer mom went to the bar……and you were sleepin’ in the backseat…..you musta been about three years old….and we left you asleep in the car….. while we had some drinks…..I don’t know how long it was….but then this one fucking asshole comes in…..he’s all pissed off….and he yells, at the top of his lungs, ‘WHO THE FUCK LEFT THEIR FUCKING KID ASLEEP OUT IN A FUCKING CAR???!!!’ ….and I kicked that guy’s ass. That guy was a fucking asshole!”

Isn’t that great?! Wonderful story, yes? One to snuggle up with loved ones and tell by fireside every Christmas, for generations to come. Warm family fuzzies for EVERYBODY! (Christ Almighty.)

As Step-Daddy-Dearest recounted his version of deplorable events, I remember turning to my then-boyfriend, now-husband, with wide dear-god-make-it-stop eyes. In that moment I felt an awful mixture of absurdity and embarrassment, and I sent the following message with my fully rounded, please-kill-me eyeballs: “Oh Scottie, I knew I was fucked up. I knew my childhood was fucked up, and that I am ultimately, psychologically, and possibly irreparably fucked up. But I didn’t know I was THIS fucked up! And I’m sorry. I would have warned you if I could’ve. I’m so sorry. If you leave me, I will completely understand. Matter of fact, you should probably leave me now. Save yourself. This ship isn’t sinking. It wrecked a long, long time ago.”

He didn’t leave me, though. He married me instead. Turns out he had a less than Norman Rockwell upbringing himself. Not Child Protective Services worthy, not even close, but his parents’ marriage couldn’t be categorized as a healthy one – and he picked up a good number of his own relationship-killing habits watching that mess go down. Even still, 2015 will mark our ten year anniversary. Ten years of working on taming our inner-insulant-children, and ten years of helping one another to do a lot of growing up. Progress. Improvement. Growth and expansion. My oh my, but it’s a marvelous thing.

I only wish my mom could revel in the same sense of accomplishment, having battled and won so much in her time. Because, while her husband sat spewing old, drunken, dirty family laundry that Christmas Eve,I looked over and found her with her head hung in shame – which simply broke my heart. I hate to see her in pain. I’ve seen much too much of my mom in pain. She’s dealt with more than her fair share of suffering this lifetime, and she really did do the best she could by me. Her parenting wins far outweigh her parenting fails. She taught me honesty and integrity. She taught me compassion and (though it took me something like 25 years to show it) responsibility. She taught me how to love with my whole heart. And, whenever anyone compliments me on what a good mother I am, I let them know I’m only emulating her example – and her overall example was LOVE.

Again, I could have died a happy woman never knowing that I was once a tiny, blonde, pigtailed three year old left alone in the back of a car (1979 Camaro? 1976 Nova? It’s anybody’s whitetrash guess), while her mother and her mother’s jerk of a boyfriend went to drink in a bar. In fact, after hearing the story, it took me months to absorb it. Sorta shook me up. In a logical sense, it shouldn’t have. There are much lousier childhood incidents I can recall easily and vividly, but I still tear up when I think about that little girl left alone.

It’s not the worst thing that ever happened to a child. As far as kids and atrocities go, I got off all sorts of lucky. But a wound is a wound. A scar is a scar. And a drunken stepdad on Christmas Eve is a pitifully old, selfishly unburdening-himself bastard. However uncomfortable inebriated step-dad’s over-sharing might have been, it afforded the opportunity to confront a bunch of my ancient mental bullshit, and it prompted me to work on getting the sam hell over it. I’m far from all the way over it (clearly), but I’m getting there.

What I find truly fascinating, even encouraging, is the idea that I might just be a better person for it. For ALL of it. All the sad, all the shame, all the massive heartache: the whole tumultuous lot of my youth. This notion that it didn’t just “all work out in the end”, or that I didn’t merely “turn out okay”, but rather than it all meant something and it was all intrinsically necessary in order for to me be ME…….well, I dig that. I get that. It makes sense. I lived it all, and now the trick appears to be learning to love it all.
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If you pay attention, all existential roads seem to lead back to love.
And if you’re not getting there….maybe you (we, US) are doing it wrong.

Letters to a Tall Girl: Part II – From Dad

Dear Maddy,

I can’t tell you what it’s like to not be tall.  I’ve always been tall.  It’s not always easy – clothes are too short, there’s not enough leg room, people always assume you play basketball, you have to be careful so you don’t bang your head or strain your back.  But you know what?  All sizes have their pros and cons.  And very often, human beings want to be what they are not.

My sister had super curly hair – so she wanted straight hair.  You will find that many short people wish they were taller.  Some things we can change to a degree – hair color & length, body weight, getting a tan – but height is not one of them. (Well, shorter people can wear heels or platform shoes.) If you’re tall, you are going to stay tall.  It’s part of who you are; your genetics.  Embrace it.  Be closer to the sun and the stars.  Raise your head and breathe deeply from the clearer air only tall people can reach.  Help shorter people when they need it – change a light bulb, get something from a shelf, look for their friend (or yours) in a crowd.  Hopefully, they will return the favor by crawling under the table to retrieve something you dropped or shoveling snow.

When you are old enough to sit there, you should always try to get an exit row on airplanes – they have much more leg room.  When you have a car, you will need a bigger one for the leg and head room.  Guess what?  Little sporty cars may look “cool”, but bigger vehicles hold more friends and family and stuff from your latest shopping trip.  They are more comfortable on road trips and generally safer.

You have to take fewer steps to get anywhere.  People will literally look up to you (and quite often figuratively too).  Your long arms will give more hugginess to your hugs.  Your high-fives will be higher.  When you are older and out with your friends in a crowded place, you will be able to see them easier, and they will be able to find you quicker.  You will almost always get to sit in the front seat of other peoples’ cars; that is a generally accepted social benefit of being tall.

Sometimes being tall will be awkward, or uncomfortable, but you will get past that.  You are tall.  It is part of who you are.  Accepting that and being comfortable with who you are leads to a happier outlook on life.  It’s not worth being worried about it; your height is here to stay!  Stand up straight, be proud, never let any bring you down for being what you are, and enjoy being a wonderful, lovely, sweet tall young woman.

Lots of love, always,

Dad

GraceInUpwardMotion

Only the Unlonely

It happened just the way I’d pictured it. We waved goodbye to our girls; one tall, one small, hand-in-hand, backpack-strapped, escorted by a flight attendant aboard a plane headed for Nana’s house. And, as anticipated, tears were spilled. We sat at the gate long after it had emptied, awaiting departure, and, an extremely somber 30 minutes later, they were gone.

A few blocks from the airport we dined at our favorite sushi place and gradually I felt the mood begin to lift. Clouds rolled backward, heavens opened up, and to our mutual amazement, something like a choir of joyous angels descended unto earth, banishing sorrow in a sweet falsetto, “Ah, sweet mystery of life, at last I’ve found theeeeeeee,” and all at once it hit us: we were FREE!

Two seconds after arriving home the mister was naked. Simply to be naked. And, unless forced to be in public, he ceased wearing clothes altogether. At some point I found him standing in the backyard, basking in the setting sun, a warm breeze blowing through his…chest hair. We giggled like loons. We agreed to have naked breakfast on the patio that weekend, because….what neighbors? Neighbors who? We’re a childless couple now. We’re naked old people in our backyard now; top o’ the morning to ya!

Nudey-dudey breakfast time never came to pass, however, for we did something far greater with our mornings; we slept in. We stayed out late, we woke late, we lounged in bed, snuggled like it was an Olympic sport, made each other laugh, made each other smile, made out, napped, watched t.v., ventured outdoors only for food, came home and did it all over it again. We stocked the refrigerator with kale, fish, coconut Thai tomato soup and stinky cheese. We hatched a plan to scope out recipes; alternating nights in which one would surprise the other with an exciting new dish. We didn’t purchase a single frozen toaster pastry, shitty chemical-flavored cheese cracker, or any product with a character from Frozen on it. It was like living in a dream.

By Sunday I, too, had kicked the habit of wearing clothes. Had we ever gotten along so well? Ever been more in love? Was it as magical back when we were dating? I didn’t think so. And the house! We’d cleaned it just after our daughters left, and days later…it was still clean! I turned to my beloved, bald, giant, hairy nudist and cried, “It’s THEM! It’s always been THEM!”

But at the close of our refreshing weekend, around 10 PM, he learned his father had been hospitalized in Michigan. He spent Monday morning gathering info, Monday afternoon making travel arrangements, and by Tuesday morning I was once more at the airport waving farewell (though I’m relieved to report, his pops is presently on the mend and recovering well).

My 37th birthday followed, the very next day, and every member of my household was in a different state; one in Florida, one in Washington, one in Michigan. I was a little bummed out by this, until I reminded myself how I’d kicked them all out, on purpose, just three weeks prior – for Mother’s Day. That was my gift request: GET. OUT. I only wanted time to myself, without having to go anywhere to get it. I sent my little family out to dinner and just kicked back in silence, soaking in the stillness, and ignoring texts like, “If you change your mind, we’d love for you to join us” and “I wish you were with us mama.” Perhaps the opposite of leaving me in peace, but I didn’t mind. I also didn’t feel bad. I told my preteen, “Someday, you’ll be all grown up and out on your own. Someday you might live a zillion miles away and I will miss you like a crazy person. And someday I’ll thrill to get a phone call from you, I’ll ache to spend time with you, and I’ll count the minutes until I see you again. But NOT today.”

And thus, Life, being funny the way Life insists it’s very funny, said, “Happy Birthday, Niki! Here’s some of that mega-extended ‘me time’ you value so much. We left the cat. Cheers.”

But joke’s on Life, for once, since I’ve been enjoying myself. Between my husband making surprise birthday arrangements before he left town and my co-workers/friends rallying around me, I’ve been quite content. In the week and a half since the fam deserted, I’ve discovered this weird, yet incredible thing called “do whatever you want.” I make whatever I want for dinner, rent whichever movie I please, go to bed at any ungodly hour suitable to my fancy, and I leave the house without announcing where I’m going, or when I’ll be back. I answer to no one! Except the cat.

Dr. Pickles disapproves, but he’s not the boss of me.

Dr. Pickles

The entire scenario has caused me to reflect on the fact that I’ve never lived alone. I talk a lot about growing up alone in the woods – and minus a pack of wolves raising me, it’s mostly true. Between the ages of five and twelve I lived smack-dab in the middle of 17 acres of forest, and because my stepfather hated children (and being that I was a child, sucked to be me) I was forbidden to have friends over. I spent A LOT of time alone. With a cat.

As an adult woman, though, not so much. I’ve lived with my mother, a roommate, a significant other, or, later on, my first born – but never alone. Good thing I got so much practice at solitude when I was small, it made the last several days doable. Pleasant, even. Definitely an interesting and introspective journey, but I’m done now. All done. All caught up on the “me time.” If this is some “It’s a Wonderful Life” kind of shit, go ahead and hook Clarence up with those wings, Universe, because I got the message. I’d like my family back now, please.
Posthaste, tout de suite, and hurry the lonesome hell up.
They are my life, and my God am I a lucky woman for it.

We Love Hard For This

The season is upon us! And whether you agree it’s the most wonderful time of year, or you declare it the most expensive, stressful, pointless, irritating and/or depressing, I have come bearing gifts of holiday cheer!

Well, this isn't the YouTube cheer, just regular old happy everything non-motion cheer.

Age old ‘happy everything’ cheer.

Now, after viewing our upcoming YouTube internet gifts to you (our gifts to the world, really…nay, the universe) you’ll likely ask if we are professional entertainers. Clearly we’ve studied dance and mastered choreography at some point in our collective family career. Surely we’ve performed as a professional troupe; a modern-day “Familie Von Trapp.” But no! Say WHAAAT? I know. It’s hard to believe but, no, we are not trained thespians. We were just bored after Thanksgiving dinner, and it was either bust out the Christmas C.D.s and make with the silly, or watch a movie.

Be glad, and rejoice, that we did not watcheth a movie. But instead…

Viewer Discretion Advised: We are not a perfect family.
Many believe us to be so awesome (and we are), so happy (we mostly are), and the snapshot of an ideal familial unit (which we absolutely are not). This impression is derived from the P.R. face we present to the world. And while the truth of us isn’t some dark, ugly, lie behind closed doors, we have our equitable share of dirty laundry; the sort we choose not to air.

When I hear, “Oh I wish my husband was romantic, like yours,” and, “Oh I wish my family had fun like yours does,” I feel compelled to make others feel better by assuring them that we are real, flawed human persons. That my husband is a thoughtless jerkface, just like theirs, and my children are fiercely engaged in the total annihilation of one another – or me, whichever comes first. And I also assure them how there isn’t enough wine in the breadth of existence to make any of it okay. But, one, no one believes me, and two, it just sells my family short. I shouldn’t have to convince people we’re REAL people.

Especially when I should know, by now, those people will project whatever they want onto the joy we attempt release into the world. They will be uplifted by it or they will be disgusted by it – or some intrinsically complicated lovey-hatey limbo therein.

But I’m not going to feel bad about being happy. Or having a happy family.
We work hard for this.
We LOVE hard for this.

A Timeline of Halloween Coolness

My family has cultivated something of a reputation for manifesting the spirit of Halloween Awesome. Beginning in 2006, when our eldest (back then, our only) child asked us to dress as a family of devils. Since then, each autumn, friends and family eagerly await the unveiling of our family theme; often asking for hints months ahead of time. My favorite years are the ones where our costumes are such an ensemble they function as pieces of a puzzle. Like this year, when we wandered the local mall. We were following each other, single file. First someone would see me, smile, then the little one, and smile, then my mister, and smile, then the eldest….and upon sight of the eldest it clicks. They get it. The big picture. The story we’re trying to tell. And, young or old, they always gasp, their eyes light up and they shout, “OH! THAT’S SO COOL!”

I love that. It makes me happy, my spouse happy, our kids happy and makes others happy: a whole lot of positive juju for a supposedly wicked holiday.
And…so….the story goes…..on a dark and stormy desert night…….

2006: Family From Hell
Our daughter asked if we could be a family of devils. My husband, who stands 6 ft. 5 inches tall, painted his bald head red, super-glued horns to it, attached pointy ears, shaded his eyes and mouth black, inserted fangs, donned a heavy black robe (which has served for many a costume since), added leathery wings, clawed hands and made babies cry. Truly, though, he unwittingly answered the door for a 10 month old trick-or-treater. That poor baby gazed up into the eyes of Satan and started bawling. And my husband, approaching the little guy, with his clawed hands out, saying, “Oh no! Oh I’m so sorry, little guy!” with his razor rows of teeth flashing, somehow managed to make it worse.

Family from Hell

Family from Hell

2007: The Addams Family
The eldest was five years old and had come home from a summer at her Nana’s house announcing she would be Wednesday Addams for Halloween. She pointed at me and said, “You’re Morticia.” Then pointed at my husband and said, “You’re Uncle Fester.” DONE. For a couple of former goth kids, who love horror flicks and have a cabinet in the living room full of (completely tasteful, beautifully ornate) skulls, it was like Christmas! We stole the Halloween show! And Miss Wednesday stayed in character the whole night. Never smiling for a photo. We were so proud.

The Addams Family

The Addams Family

2008: The Wizard of Oz
The eldest, officially in charge of our Halloween theme, had fallen in love with the land of Oz. Again she assigned roles. Mommy: Wicked Witch. Daddy: Flying Monkey. Finding a flying monkey costume to accommodate my husband’s giant (figurative) ass was not exactly easy. We ended up ordering online (for something like $120), some essentially chintzy blue/grey carpet suit with wings. And, October in Arizona isn’t like October in a place that actually has seasons. It’s warm. It’s especially warm dressed head-to-toe in Muppet. I was also 8 hundred years pregnant at the time, dressed head to toe in black Wicked Witch regalia. And Dorothy, six year old Dorothy was an absolute doll and had a marvelous time.

Wizard of Oz

2009: Alice in Wonderland
We’d added a member to our costume crew by 2009. She was 10 months old and had little say in the matter. Big seven year old sister was still commanding the Halloween Family Troops, and was enamored of Alice in Wonderland. By now, she wasn’t dictating costumes to her parents; it was more of a collaborative effort. Of course she would be Alice, but we were free to choose the funnest, most feasible characters we could be. It was the first year I attempted to make costumes. My Queen of Hearts gown was (a lukewarm mess) not what I’d envisioned, and my baby’s Cheshire Cat was just okay (though I was proud of the fluffy tail). My husband had an old-timey suit and pocket watch on hand, just adding whiskers and rabbit ears. And little Alice was the star of our show.

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

2010: Universal Studios Monsters
It was purely collaborative that year. The baby, fast approaching age two, was obsessed with dogs and had been randomly howling for several months, “Ahhhhhh-wooooooooh!” Cutest thing EVER. Meanwhile, big sister wanted to be a vampire. My husband was the genius who suggested the Universal Studios Monsters theme. He was Frankenstein, I, his electroshocked bride, and the girls were Dracula (in drag) and baby Wolfman. We didn’t get a family photo until the very end of the night. My makeup had run off, my mega-wig was limp, the eldest had discarded her own wig hours before, the baby’s wolfman’s cowl never fit properly, but Franky rocked the party all night long.

Universal Studio Monsters

Universal Studio Monsters

2011: The Year Off
The mister was stationed in South Korea, decidedly placing a damper on (everything!) our usual festivities. It was the first year the baby, at that point almost 3, but still “the baby”, requested a costume. Having forsaken dogs after a friend’s ill-tempered one had bitten her, she said, “I wanna be a kitty!” Big sister was big into Monster High Dolls and wanted to be Abbey Bominable (the Abominable Snowman’s daughter). I decided last minute to throw on some ears and be a kitty mama. And that was that.

And it was kind of nice to have the pressure off (…our wallet).

The Year Off

The Year Off

2012: Horror Movies
Back in black, yo! A long black wig for big sister who played the scary Asian ghost girl from “The Grudge”, that same old handy black robe for the mister who underwent five hours of latex makeup to transform into Pinhead from “Hellraiser”, and a black cloud above me as I showered myself in fake blood and mimicked 1970s “Carrie.” Oh, and a black spider costume for the little one, who said, “I wanna be a spider! A black widow!” And we all wondered how we’d fit that into the family theme. My husband replied, “Okay…..uh…you’re from ‘Arachnophobia!’” And it worked out all right.

Incidentally, on a grown-up costume party night out, walking around with Pinhead, I found out what it would be like to be the non-famous person married to someone famous. Five minutes after entering a Halloween block party in Bisbee, Arizona the crowds started forming around my husband, requesting pictures. And slowly, I was pushed back and back until I was outside the circle of his adoring fans. It took fifteen minutes to reclaim my date – and that was just the first adoring, cellphone pic-ing throng.
NTS: Never marry anyone famous.

Horror Movies

Horror Movies

2013: Cinderella

“Cinderella???? After all that? You’re going DISNEY PRINCESS? Nooooooo!” – general consensus when we leaked the news.

We’d decided to let the baby (who is almost five now, but will forever be “the baby”) assign costumes the way her sister had done at her age. We couldn’t very well tell her, “No. Sorry, sweetie. You can’t be what you want to be for Halloween, because the family is doing Star Wars this year and you’re going to be R2-D2. Now, practice beeping and blooping.” Though we really get into the spirit of the season, we’re not assholes.

We also knew, with her, we’d likely be heading down a magical Disney princess alley – she’s obsessed with Cinderella – and no one was thrilled about that. We realized we’d lucked out with the older one, and all her creepy/cool picks. Big sister was never a tomboy, but she wasn’t a girly-girl either; she was just wonderful. Little sister is equally wonderful. And, believe me, she may like pastels, tiaras, frilly dresses, and fairytales full of love everlasting, but she will also CUT YOU. I don’t worry about empowering her as a female. Future her will stab you with her Prada heel. Repeatedly. I advise you to let the girl be girly.

Cinderella

Cinderella

And as it turned out, with the baby as Cinderella, big sister as the Fairy Godmother, Daddy as Prince Charming and myself as the Wicked Stepmother, we had a lot of fun! I took another go at creating costumes from near scratch, and won. The mister built his (spray-painting canning jar lids gold and adhering braided tassels to create epaulettes on the shoulders) from the bare bones of an old air force jacket. Big sister and I lucked out at the diviest thrift store in town. I’d had a hell of a time finding a Victorian dress, anywhere, for under a hundred dollars, yet found my gown at St. Vincent de Paul for 3 bucks. Sewed on a brooch. Wicked Stepmother. Done. Sewed pink satin ribbon into a baby blue hooded bath robe, shaped and attached a pink satin bow via clasps. Fairy Godmother. Done. Big sister made the baby’s choker, I painted her blue headband, daddy worked diligently on his sashes, awards and braiding. And unlike the Alice in Wonderland year, our crafty efforts paid off. Or at least, they seemed to. We made people smile.

Cindarella Halloween

Cindarella Halloween

I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be able to float this family-themed boat. We have a preteen who willingly, happily dressed up with us this year, but only half-heartedly trick-or-treated. How long before her attitude changes: “Um, you guys are, like, hella dumb and stuff. Oh. Em. Gee. I, like, totally hate my life. And you. But mostly just you.” And what about the little one? What if next year her pick is My Little Pony? And the year after, Lalaloopsy? What if our once spooky family Halloween gets hijacked by pink unicorns sparkles of glittery princess cheer?

*Shudder*

There’s an end somewhere. There always is. Family traditions aside, these girls will grow up and move away. At which point I imagine sitting home on Halloween nights, having set up spooky lights and strobes, fog machines, with many a robotic monster in the yard, costumed-up and ready for trick-or-treaters – with a bowl of the GOOD candy! I want all the kids in my neighborhood to be excited and enchanted by my house, year after year. I want to create that one super cool place you remember from your childhood. And, with any luck, my grandchildren will stop by.