My gripe is mainly over costumes.
When I was younger and only had to worry about coming up with one terribly clever costume, I was sometimes able to manage it, usually by stopping at Goodwill and picking up some vintage atrocity from the 60's. I have collected several of these over the years and now rotate through them, always spending Halloween clothed in one of several polyester outfits from the box under my stairs. I never could get comfortable with the idea of spending money on a cheap costume that would only be relevant for one night.
The problem, of course, got worse as we tacked on the kids. I can sew, but I despise it (plus I'm incredibly slow), so sewing my kids Halloween costumes has always been out of the question.
But it's okay because shortly after school starts, the glossy magazines begin arriving in the mail. They offer to turn your toddler into something amazing (for $60 or more plus shipping). Costumes parade prominently around stores before summer is even spent. As a result, my kids believe in love at first sight. How could they not when they've experienced it, year after year, as I attempted to whiz by the Halloween costumes without them noticing?
When kids get their hearts set on something, it's hard to say 'no,' isn't it?
The trouble is, their love is fleeting and the next time you walk through the store, you'll find that the object of their desire has changed. But if you don't buy it when they see it then their size will sell out. Then you'll really be stuck. You don't want to be the mom stuck on Ebay, frantically bidding on the very last costume in your child's size. Trust me.
A few years ago, quite by accident, we hit on a way to avoid the issue entirely. Remember when your child was one, and he enjoyed playing with the boxes his toys came in more than he wanted the toys? Never underestimate the power of a large cardboard box, even when your child is no longer a baby.
When my son Energy told me he wanted to be a hermit crab for Halloween, my first response was a resounding 'no.' He had it all planned out, and it sounded incredibly complicated. His plan involved paper mache, balloons, and chicken wire. I hate Home Depot. The thought of traipsing through the store with four young kids in search of chicken wire so my son could make a mess in the yard attempting to make a wearable hermit crab shell was not appealing. So I stalled him, turning to the internet for guidance. There had to be somebody, somewhere, selling a hermit crab costume, or at least a video on how to make one, right? Right? You can find anything on the internet.
I told him he would just have to think of something else. But he pressed the issue and, eventually, I came to see that being a hermit crab was really important to him. I promised I would help, but we had to go with my plan, which did not involve paper mache or chicken wire. Or balloons.
I like to keep things simple. I'm no good with a sewing machine, but I'm awesome with a can of spray paint. So my plan revolved around a cardboard box and some spray paint. Before long, we had a passable hermit crab. My son was ecstatic. And he was convinced I was the best mom EVER, which was an unexpected bonus.
Energy's costumes in subsequent years have all revolved around cardboard boxes. I suspect they will for many more years to come.
At his school Halloween party, dressed as a calculator, Energy got angry because everyone kept pushing his buttons. :) They were really cool buttons: we attached them to the box with springs so they popped out after you pushed them. His classmates couldn't resist.
This one's a mailbox, before we put the US Mail signs on it. Energy's plan was to crouch down on people's front doorsteps so all they would see when they opened the door was the mailbox. Then he would pop up and scare them.
Here's the completed look, along with his entourage of an angel, a vampire, the grim reaper, a ninja, and someone who loves them all.
And here's a little gem I found in the archives. This is Energy, as Larry the Cucumber from Veggie Tales, in his very first box costume. This was before we really understood what we'd hit upon--we were just super poor. We made it out of a Costco cheerios box and leftover craft paint.
This year's cardboard box creation: A Rubix cube.
Also, Mellow has decided to follow in his brother's footsteps and will don the cardboard box for the first time this Halloween. Here he is in his Minecraft Steve head.
After so many box costume successes, we have come to believe that they are the best. In no particular order, here are the reasons box costumes make Halloween great:
- People think you're creative, when in reality you're just lazy and cheap
- Your kids will change their minds about what they want to be a week before Halloween. Just count on it. With a box costume, you can wait until the week before to make it and you don't have to worry about it selling out at the store.
- Making a costume out of a cardboard box is cheap, cheap, cheap!
- The looks we get from Target employees when we ask if they have any large, clean boxes we can have for Halloween costumes are priceless.
- Almost anything can be made out of a box if you use your imagination
- Kids can wear whatever they want underneath their boxes. No more freezing cold kids because the costume makers skimp on cloth and don't leave room under their costumes for extra layers.
- If you like attracting attention (which Energy does) wearing a giant, spray-painted box is a great way to do it.
- You can throw it away after Halloween without feeling like you're wasting your money
Since I obviously love boxes so much, one of these years our whole family should go as coordinating boxes. We could be the cereal aisle at the grocery store, or we could go as gallons of ice cream. We could be Minecraft blocks or a family of Legos. We could even dress up as bricks and go as our house. The possibilities are endless!