I still remember the day. It was late in the week, and we didn’t feel like cooking, so we loaded up the mini-van to go out to dinner. Anna was in third grade and Hudson was in kindergarten and one of them said, “We should have a Halloween Party!”
Halloween has never been my favorite holiday. Not for any religious reason, outside of avoiding things extra dark and evil. As a kid, I liked getting dressed up in a homemade masterpiece my mom made and going out trick-or-treating. But now that I’m the one with the expectation of creating the homemade masterpieces, Halloween sort of lost its luster.
“A Halloween Party?” I gave a sarcastic laugh. “You realize Halloween is next week, right?” Both of our young, calendar-challenged kids said, “So what? That’s plenty of time.” I looked over at Ryan, praying he’d be the voice of reason in all this, but his eyes were wide. He said, “We could get some dry ice and put it in a cauldron with the punch!” No ally there. Resistance was futile against science and special effects.
Four years later, we’re still having the annual Halloween Party. We’ve worked out better systems over the years, like no costumes. Having the kids dress up seems like a necessity when you invite people to a Halloween Party. But, after the first year of keeping a bunch of strangers’ kids various costume pieces together and not soiled before trick-or-treat, dressing-up got the axe.
Now that we have three kids inviting friends, we’ve noticed the sixth grade girls don't want to mix with the kindergarteners and certainly not the third grade boys, so we’ve moved to staggered arrivals. That makes the night feel a little hectic (and long) because one group is alway arriving or leaving, but it seems to work.
The last two Halloween Parties have been on the rainiest nights of the season. Indoor parties are pretty easy for kindergarten girls who love doing crafts and sixth grade girls who just want to talk. Third grade boys? Outside is preferred. For boys that age outside parties go something like this. Feed the boys. Send the boys outside. Call them in when their parents arrive. For indoor parties, it’s more like: feed boys, tell them the next activity is a craft, talk them into trying it, facilitate the most rushed craft-time ever, try to get them to play a game, raise your voice so they understand the game, put away the football they so desperately want to throw inside, finish the game, give them candy, shut the basement door and remember most of our stuff is replaceable.
One game that’s always a hit is a relay race where the kids have to put on a pair of knit gloves, open a starburst with the gloves on, chew it up and swallow it, and then run back. For the boys, it has running, a challenge, candy, and yelling. All things they love.
For the kindergarteners, we had a bunch of realistic looking paper pumpkins on the wall. They got to pick a pumpkin from “the pumpkin patch” and decorate it with sharpies. Simple and fun for them because they hardly ever get to use permanent markers.
The sixth grade girls split into two teams and tried (rather unsuccessfully) to assemble one of those gingerbread kits that’s supposed to look like a haunted house. Neither group ended with a standing house, but they all had black mouths from eating the frosting and there was a lot of laughter, so that’s a win.
We also did an activity where they had to draw a halloween scene blindfolded. It was really fun to watch. Some of them were convinced their indiscernible scribblings were a masterpiece until they took off the blindfold. Others took off the blindfold and were pleasantly surprised by what they drew.
We’ve officially survived another year of the infamous Halloween Party. I feel a sense of accomplishment and I also feel sticky. As in, every surface of our house is sticky. I hope we’re making sticky memories for the kids too. I hope they remember rainy nights with friends, eating sweets, laughing, making crafts, and being together.