Saturday, November 2, 2019

Halloween 2019: The Real Story.

Hello, dear readers! I will get back to you with School Picture Sewing: 2019 Cat Edition (Part 2) soon, I promise. Maggie's dress was finished just in time for the actual school pictures so all I got was an iPhone pic. But in the meantime, I had to stop by and share the kids' Halloween costumes!

Warning: This is long. The thing I missed about blogging when I was just doing instagram was being able to blather on and on for hundreds of words about whatever. So here we are! 

Okay, so, background: The past five months have been the busiest work months of my 17 year legal career, no joke. I am deep in what Gretchen Rubin has termed a "season of sacrifice" on her Happier podcast.  It's a good thing, the economy is booming right now, it's a growth period in my career, we're staffing up and it's not going to be this intense forever, but I have had to pare my life outside of work down to the bare minimum. Or at least, that's what I should be doing, but I'm no good at that, as you probably know. That is, I'm good at skipping chores I don't enjoy, like scrubbing the kitchen floor, but I'm really bad at taking a break from my hobbies. Like, my idea of paring down is that I didn't try to put up like 500 jars of tomatoes and chutneys and jams this fall.* I have issues. 

So rather than try to pretend that everything is hunky dory and that whipping up these costumes was no probs, I thought I would share how this ACTUALLY WENT DOWN, interspersed with adorable pics of my kids so you don't get too bogged down. 

Early October: Kids come up with great ideas! Maggie wants to be a blue leopard beanie boo (the one called "Leona" by the company but named "Meow Meow" by my kids). Okay, that's pretty fun, I can get behind that.

And Joe wants to be a flying squirrel! Not like Rocky and Bullwinkle but like this:

Image result for flying squirrel


Early to mid-October: I get excited, spend late night time researching flying squirrels on my phone, and have fun shopping and buying all the fabric! Most of Joe's materials come from Britex, which means that his costume is like, absurdly high quality. The fur on his hat is the nicest fur I've ever worked with (and was priced like it was patched together from real flying squirrel pelts). Maggie's materials, on the other hand, come from a variety of places, with the blue leopard print minkie coming from, and it turns out to be one of the nastiest, most polyester, grossest-feeling fabrics I've ever handled. This stuff makes your skin crawl and your cuticles snag.

Days after I've spent more than a $100** on Halloween supplies: My sister sends me a link to an Amazon flying squirrel costume that costs $20. Are you trying to kill me over here?

But never fear, mine will be SO MUCH COOLER.

Third week of October: I sew up Joe's hood using the ever dependable Oliver + S Cozy Winter Hood, and it's awesome. I'm feeling good about myself! I also cut out all of the basic pieces - tops and bottoms - for the kids' costumes. The t-shirt pattern (for both kids) is the basic tee from Ottobre 1/2019. The leggings are Oliver + S Playtime Leggings. 

My brother's girlfriend helped to design a bespoke Ty tag for Maggie's ear (which kept flipping back all night on actual Halloween, oh well!).

Fourth week of October: It's the last weekend before Halloween! I gotta get my act together! 

I don't have material for the insides of Maggie's ears! So we head off to Stonemountain and Daughter. What? They don't stock lamé anymore??! Well, I'm sure as heck not going to JoAnn's all the way across town on the weekend before Halloween, I shudder to think how long that cutting line must be. So I buy an 1/8 yard of gorgeous $22/yard green silk charmeuse and glitter paint and I paint this beautiful fabric. (The glitter paint continues to flake off all through Halloween.)

Then I sew up Maggie's hood and the kids' tops and leggings. Maggie's blue leopard print minkie feels so gross and polyester-y on the back that I underline her top in cotton knit to make it wearable. I go to bed on Sunday thinking, "no problem, I just have the finishing details, like Maggie's eyes and tail, and Joe's wings and tail, to do, I can do that after work this week." 

October 30: Of course, the problem was that I didn't get to these final details until about 7 PM on the night before Halloween. After a couple of insanely busy days at work, including a night meeting on the 29th, I find myself trying to finish up the costumes when I'm already exhausted and stressed. At this point, sewing these things is officially not fun anymore. Do other people ever get to a place of stress where they are just like "don't talk to me"? Or is that just me? ANYWAY. Pretty sure my brother and husband were literally tiptoeing around me while I sewed fluffy tails in angry, exhausted silence (in RETROSPECT, this is pretty funny, but it wasn't at the time, trust me!). 

At this point, I run into issues. I thought I could fasten Joe's squirrel "wing" just to the neck and wrists of his t-shirt, but (a) the wing droops under his arms in a very non-flying-squirrel-like manner, and (b) Joe complains that the weight of his squirrel wing fabric pulls his shirt down from behind, creating a choking sensation at the front neckband. I will be honest, at this point I kind of want to bark, "suck it up!" but years of being this kid's mama have taught me that Joe is incapable of handling even mild discomfort, even for the sake of a killer costume. So, grumbling the whole time, I handsewed the "wing" fabric, which is like a skin toned swimsuit fabric, along his neck and arms to distribute the weight better and also tacked it to the bottom of his shirt. Then I pinned his tail through the shirt and leggings waistband to further anchor the wing fabric and reduce the drag on the back of the shirt neck.

At this point, it's late, I'm exhausted and frazzled beyond belief, and I decide it's a lumpy mess, and I'm unhappy with the effect but there is no time to fix it. I went to bed wondering why I do this to myself? Why didn't I just buy the kids some freaking store bought costumes like a NORMAL OVERWORKED AND FRAZZLED ATTORNEY? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME???? UGH!

MORNING OF HALLOWEEN: Sleep helps some. I work from home so that I can go to the kids' Halloween parade. My sewing area is three feet deep in glitter, fake fur, and pattern pieces. I pack the kids off with their costumes and spend the morning trying to get a handle on my email inbox, which has, to my distress, become a place where important and time sensitive requests go to die. I am pretty sure there are actual cobwebs forming on some of these emails asking me to do important things ages ago! STRESSSSSSSS!

[Sometime around this point, my husband informs me that Maggie is being spotlighted as "student of the week" and that we need to find pictures of her and prepare a little presentation for her to give her class tomorrow. I explain to Steve that I literally cannot handle even one more thing and he flees, assuring me that he will handle it.]

HALLOWEEN PARADE AT SCHOOL: I drag myself away from the moldering inbox to go to the kids' school parade. Dang, my kids are adorable! And they are happy with their costumes! And their little friends are complimenting them, and their teachers smile at me and say, "you made that, didn't you?" The gloom starts to disperse, and I only find myself looking at the other kids' store bought costumes with envy and self-reproach a couple times.

That afternoon, I worked on my laptop on the back patio while my kids carved pumpkins, completely without adult assistance! Apparently, they have reached an age where they can be entrusted with sharp objects and no one gets hurt? Miracle of miracles! 

Unsurprisingly, their pumpkin designs are cat-focused:

HALLOWEEN EVENING: After a totally adorable photo shoot in my overgrown and autumnal back garden, the kids are ready to go trick-or-treating!! 

And although I was frazzled and tired and the costumes were not perfect (in my mind, anyway), the kids had a FANTASTIC time, clearly enjoyed their costumes, got pounds of candy, and I got lots of compliments! By the end of the evening I was explaining to folks that I sew my kids' costumes because it's fun for all of us! Yeah. LOLOLOLOLOLOL.

POST-HALLOWEEN: I am exhausted. My sewing area is a disaster. I never want to see fake fur ever again. I have decided that I really did push it too far with this project, my mental health was really suffering a bit there at the end, and that, at least as long as work remains this intense, I need to seriously rethink my choices as we approach the holiday season. It's not that I don't enjoy helping my kids to create the most amazing holidays - I do and it brings me a lot of joy! - but I always seem to, I dunno, overdo it a bit.  

Humor me for a moment here. People often ask me "how do you do it all?" and I tend to shrug a bit. I don't feel like I do that much, honestly. I usually explain that I'm a homebody, I enjoy sewing and gardening, my kids are introverts and homebodies and likely don't do as many activities as their kids do, and I like to keep my weekends mostly open and unplanned.  Plus, more humorously, I find most modern Netflix dramas to be too anxiety provoking, so "binge watching" is generally not a temptation for me! Ha! And normally, all this is actually true! 

But then there are times where I have to admit - I am doing too much, and I am doing it because I am driven and determined, rather than because it's fun. I can't be the only one, right? And when it is your creative hobby that brings you joy and fulfillment, when it is your much-needed break and "happy place" away from a challenging and mental job, it can be especially hard to just know when to stop! It's possible to burn out on even the best things!

Of course, I'm also thinking, my kids won't want me to sew their costumes for that many more years ... they are really at peak Halloween age right now, and I don't want to let these years pass by without enjoying them to the max ... one day I will look back on these photos and just see that they were joyful and happy, and isn't that the most important thing?

But, as Steve mildly suggested, next year I should probably start sewing a bit earlier! 

Do you have any words of wisdom for me? What do you do to create the magic while keeping the stress under control over the holidays? I could use ALL THE TIPS between now and Christmas!!! Or if you don't have tips, but you have been there, done that, and can commiserate please let me know I'm not the only one!  


* It's true that I tend to be an overachiever, at work and at home. I am always enthusiastically diving into new projects. But the truth is that Steve has been picking up some serious slack in the past few months and I am barely holding on, let alone cooking nice meals or putting up jam! I have kept up with sewing, but that's because I desperately need that tactile relief from my mental and abstract job.

** I am somewhat in denial about how much was spent on materials for these costumes. It was probably, ahem, quite a bit North of $100, although I did use some stash fabric for Maggie's costume ... as of November, I am back on the no-fabric-buying wagon. 


  1. I’m torn between complimenting the amazing costumes (so good!!) and helping you stop the cycle. Thanks for being open about the complexities. It’s helpful for stressed out parents everywhere. Sigh... Let’s analyze the holidays together, list your “must” items and then experiment with mercilessly hacking some of them. ??

    1. Oh my goodness, I just see our tiny babies in our respective profile photos on Blogger! I guess quite a bit of time has passed, eh, friend?

      I'm with you for analyzing. From a sewing perspective, the good news is that I have ALREADY made stockings and a christmas tree skirt? Now I just have to agree not to make any of the above for other people ... and also, not host anything!

  2. Inder the costumes are beautiful! That said, your words in this post felt so familiar, especially everything in the post halloween section. I am so there with you. You’re not the only one! Sometimes I feel that when work tasks ramp up, my creative urges also peak, causing me to seek out new or time consuming (possibly stressful) projects at the worst possible time relative to my ability to complete them. It’s like the creative part of my brain needs to express itself and it is enjoyable until other obligations start caving in on me. As for tips...writing down the ideas helped a bit to stop me from overdoing it. For me the idea and planning and materials acquisition feels like the infatuation part of a romance. Then the reality of hard work kicks my butt once I get started. If I have a quite detailed list I can get some enjoyment out of planning but maybe arrive at reality faster and put off the project until a better time. I’ve also started including myself in the planning phase, my peace and sanity should be materials!! So, yes I want to learn stained glass or make a gourd ukulele but I want to do it in peace so I know these are future projects. What has also helped is recognizing that, unlike work, it’s ok to be inconsistent and have flurries and ebbs in quality and quantity of completed projects. Stops and starts are part of nature and we are too.

    1. Thank you, Christine! These are such wise words! I share your issues, in that the busier I get, the more my brain craves relief through creative work. I also feel like the first stages are like first love - so intoxicating and so unrealistic and a bit nutty!

      I love the idea of "including myself" as a material in the planning process. That is fantastic. Also, I know in advance that I will struggle with it, but clearly you do as well, so that is heartening! LOL!

      OMG WOMAN, I had no idea how much I wanted to learn stained glass or to make a gourd instrument, until you mentioned it! Solidarity!

  3. I am just nodding along sister.

    Two points, wait until Formals and be very glad you don't have twins!

    The good thing is, your little lovelies won't remember you stressed, just the awesome costumes.

    PS Clothes brushes are great for removing faux fur fluff.

    1. I can't think where you got those points ... oh, right ...

      My problems are put solidly into perspective! (Always a valuable thing, seriously! When in doubt, I reread "Endurance" and remind myself that I am not stranded on an iceberg or in a small wooden boat 400 miles from nowhere filled with frigid antarctic water up to my ankles. LIFE IS GOOD!)

      It's true, although the husband took a heavy hit, I didn't share my angst with the kids tooooo much. I think they will have happy memories! But possibly, I could start earlier next year. It's been quite the year for me!

    2. Ahem, we birth those babies, dudes get an easy ride.

  4. You are so impressive! Your kids came up with fantastic costume ideas and it was so nice of you to let them decide in October...! O_O My job is nowhere near as stressful as yours, and I make my kids decide what costume they want at the end of July so I can start In August :D:D

    1. WELL THAT IS A SENSIBLE IDEA. I doff my cap, dear friend!

      My problem is that in August, it is FAR TOO EARLY for me to think as far ahead as October. It is currently FAR TOO EARLY to think about Christmas, which means that any and all Christmas sewing will occur in the couple weeks before Christmas! This is not a sustainable approach! But it's so hard for me to plan ahead. I guess I do have issues!

  5. Oh man, yes, it sounds like a very busy time for you right now!!! My costume creation this year was at a minimum, partially thanks to my husband who will order stuff off of Amazon Prime before I can even thread my sewing machine. Of course, at first I resent this, but later I realize that it probably saved me a few sleepless nights, and the kids are just as happy. My new motto is, costumes need to be a good mix of found/ Primed/ thrifted, and if anything is handmade, it must be straightforward and simple. As far as Christmas gifts go, I really only make gifts for people who will appreciate it, or who have specifically requested something from me. Otherwise, I just can't do it. Those are my only words of wisdom, if you can call it that! You're an amazing mama, and I admire you!

  6. I was just showing Trixie your costumes and she thinks you are the BEST Mumma!
    xx N

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