Life in CA Mommy Discoveries

A Halloween of Firsts

I was in the waiting room of the girls’ ballet dance studio and all the adults were talking about how much Halloween has changed and grown over the years.  Apparently it’s the biggest revenue-generating season in the US.  It makes sense because the holiday is so universal and there’s so much merchandise from costumes and candy alone.  Plus it’s fun for all ages.  The girls get excited about Halloween for precisely those two reasons:  Costumes and candy (or treats).  And it appears the more immersed we are in Halloween, the more “things” they have to be excited about.

This year, since we’re starting fresh here in LA, I thought we may as well dress up our little home in Halloween decor.

Our little patio all decked in colorful cobwebs.
Our little patio all decked in colorful cobwebs.

We’ve never done this before, so you can imagine the shock my husband had when he walked in the door.

We even bought the craft DIY pumpkins from Target so the girls could “decorate” them and add them to the charm of the apartment.

Sam enjoyed this little project.
Sam enjoyed this little project.

Then of course, the costumes and the parties that come with it.  The girls have attended two so far, each time in a different costume.  For the first time in years, we’re recycling old costumes and outfits!  Thankfully they have enough of those.  I suppose you could say that what we’d normally spend on new costumes, we used on decor? 😉

Sam's "costumes" were outfits she needed in school.  Jamie's Minnie was a gift and her viking was from last year.
Sam’s “costumes” were outfits she needed in school. Jamie’s Minnie was a gift and her viking was from last year.

The families in our little complex also want to have our own party this Friday.  I suppose we’ll be digging through their closets again soon.

As far as events go, we’ve been to two that have also been “firsts”.

We’d never had a Bug Invasion Halloween for one, and the Science Cube in Santa Ana is all about that this season.

What would the world be like if bugs were this big?!  AY!
What would the world be like if bugs were this big?! AY!

There are gigantic life-sized bugs that move when you come near them.  It’s interesting as much as it is scary to be honest.  I guess it is a good mix of spooky (or icky?) meets educational?

There are also other parts of the museum where you could touch actual live arthropods (ewwww…) and go through a neon bug maze to learn about math.  Not bad really.  I gather the bugs are there until November 2 in case you want to see them.

Then just last weekend, we attended our first Pumpkin Race at Manhattan Beach.  I’d never heard of pumpkins racing before until my friend told us to go and check it out with them.  This particular pumpkin race we hear is the most famous one.  It’s on its 24th year.  And it’s quite the spectacle!  You should see the crowd that gathers to race and cheer!

Essentially you turn the pumpkin into a race car.  You can make your own and have it ready when you arrive, or you can buy a “kit” at the pier for $20.

Then you dress it up in any which way you want, and join a heat of 6 Pumpkin-racers per group.  At the signal you send your pumpkin down the hill.

Go Pumpkin go!
Go Pumpkin go!

The winner of each gets to advance into the semi-finals.  And then the winners of each of those rounds makes it to the finals, until there are only 4 racers left to compete for the top 4 spots, all with cash prizes for themselves and for their school.  WHAT!

I was under the impression that it was as simple as gravity and a good set of wheels, but apparently there’s more to it.  In some heats, the smallest pumpkins won over the bigger ones.  And there were a few that started going down but started to swivel and crash into other racers too.  Some pumpkins turned over on their heads.  They lose body parts too!

Clockwise:  Red pumpkin crashes into wall; Mr Potatohead-pumpkin turns on his head.  Bottom:  Little pumpkin makes a mad dash for the end!
Clockwise: Red pumpkin crashes into wall; Mr Potatohead-pumpkin turns on his head. Bottom: Little pumpkin makes a mad dash for the end!

It’s quite fun to watch.  And there were so many creative pumpkins put to the race that day.

Wish I caught the other cute ones!
Wish I caught the other cute ones!

They also have this portion in between where they “punish” cheaters.  Cheaters are supposedly those that race using other non-pumpkin materials.  Like a watermelon for instance.  Or a pineapple (trying to disguise itself as a pumpkin?!)

Goodbye Watermelon...
Goodbye Watermelon…

The website says some people purposely put as their entries “cheater pumpkins” for the entertainment value of it all.

Everyone gets into it too – including the Mayor who has an honorary pumpkin run.  His pumpkin had to make it past the finish line in 8 seconds.

Left:  Guy in orange is the Mayor.  The Mayor!  And his pumpkin is making it's way to us in the right photo
Left: Guy in orange is the Mayor. The Mayor! And his pumpkin is making its way to us in the right photo

We’ve three more days for this Halloween craziness, and we haven’t even gone trick-or-treating yet.  I wonder how different it will be like for us here.  I’ve not yet gotten around to carving a real live pumpkin.  Maybe we’ll save that as a first for next year’s Halloween Holiday.

A Penny for Mommy's Thoughts

I Have Vikings for Daughters

The actual Halloween date hasn’t even come and gone and we’re already trick-or-treat-ed out.  The girls have gone to at least 3 Halloween celebrations each.  Jamie has probably gone to four.   But that’s okay, at least their costumes are put to good use.

And about that.  The costumes.  Over the last three years, Sam has gotten a pick of who she wants to be.  Two years ago she asked to be a pirate, like her best friend Elie.  They were pirate princesses together!  Last year she wanted to be Woody of Toy Story.  Not Jesse but Woody.

For Christmas, Sam received the gown of Merida from Brave as a gift, and I thought we could make it last through to Halloween.  She wore it several times before then, but when I’d ask her if she’d wear it on Halloween, she said, “No, I want to be someone else.”  Sam was taking her sweet time deciding on her costume, and I was feeling the pressure.  I didn’t know if we’d find a good costume here, or if I could even make one!  Oh goodness.

Meanwhile in little sister land, I wasn’t worrying.  I figure Jamie could still wear one of Sam’s old costumes like she’s done in the past.

Then one weekend out of the blue, my husband and I decided to let the girls watch one of our favorite animated films, How to Train your Dragon.

Love this movie.
Love this movie.

We saw it once in the States and loved it that we just had to get a copy of the movie.  If you haven’t seen it, I highly encourage you to do so too.  It’s one of those all-time favorites.

Surprisingly, once the girls got over the first viewing scares and suspenses (there are fire-breathing dragons after all), they asked to watch it again.  And again.  And again!

Pretty soon we were watching it everyday, or every other day.  The girls had the lines and actions of specific characters memorized.  Jamie in particular had some lines memorized and she’d repeat them to me at random times of the day.  She also would ask me questions about the movie.  She seemed to take an uncanny interest in the characters and the plot.

One day at pick up from school, when the teachers handed out the memo for Let’s Pretend Week,  Jamie’s teacher bent down to her and asked her what her costume was this year.  Without blinking or looking at me, she said, “I’m going to be Astrid.”

Where do I get this kind of costume?!
Where do I get this kind of costume?!

Say what.

“Who’s Astrid?”  Her teacher asked, with a quick, amused glance at me.

“Astrid, the Viking girl from How to Train Your Dragon.”  Jamie was convinced.  She didn’t check with me, she didn’t break her teacher’s gaze.  She just answered.  And I must admit I was taken aback.  I wasn’t prepared for Jamie to have an opinion about her costume this year.  I had a pirate outfit she could have most definitely worn easily!  Sam was three when she made her first costume choice… but I suppose because of school and her sister’s influence, Jamie acts a bit older than she really is.

Her teacher was quite amused at the determination and originality.  I was in a panic.  Where on earth will I get an Astrid costume?!

We got home and Jamie immediately told Sam the same thing.  “Ate!  I’m going to be Astrid!”

Sam replied, “That’s a GREAT IDEA Jamie!  Mom!  I want to be a Viking for Halloween!”

Ohhh boy.

When it comes to my girls, there are certain things that I say no to.  But clearly this was not one of them.  Why didn’t I convince them to be something easier to source?  I don’t know, it didn’t occur to me.  Why would I do that?  My girls love dressing up and playing pretend.  I can’t bring myself to temper that.  Besides, being a set of Vikings won’t hurt anyone.  Maybe just my husband’s wallet, but for the sake of letting the kids be who they want to be, I’m sure it (he) can take it.

I scoured Amazon for Viking costume options, but there weren’t any for kids.  The ones that were there were too big for Jamie, and didn’t look anything at all like Astrid.  Also, it would cost an arm and a leg to ship it over this way, for maybe one wear.  If Sam wore it, I wouldn’t worry so much because it could easily be handed down.  But costumes for Jamie, we’d have to find someone who’d want to be a viking too at her age!

I was left with having something custom-made.  I actually asked Kris of OcMom, as she has a talent for making costumes for her kids.  “What?!  Vikings?!”   was her reply.  Okay, maybe not. 😉

Thankfully, the superheroes (they really can do anything!) at our office found Sonia Lee’s Costume Central.   They do custom-made costumes for kids!  All we had to do was present our pegs.  Sonia has been in the costume sourcing, making and renting business for the last five years, and for something that’s custom-made, I felt she priced it quite reasonably (I understand she needs to turn a profit as well, so even if it was a tad bit over my budget, I didn’t question it).

I trekked over with the kids one afternoon at the height of Manila traffic (ugh).  They were troopers and sports because they knew they were going to get themselves fit for their costumes.

Jamie wasn’t shy about getting herself measured either.  My usually shy-around-strangers daughter had no complaints about standing and talking to Sonia who took the time to fit them both.  And she waited for her turn patiently.

She stood and turned on command.  No complaints!
She stood and turned on command. No complaints!

Sam wanted to be Ruffnut, one of the trouble-making twins in the movie.

We were only going for the costume...
We were only going for the costume…

I asked Sam why Ruffnut was her costume of choice since I didn’t like her character too much (my issues, I know!), but Sam simply said it was because she wanted a costume without spikes and skulls.  She liked what Ruffnut was wearing.

Sonia had the costumes ready in two weeks, just in time for the girls to fit once and get it altered.  She also made boots for them to go over the girls’ shoes!

So what do you think? 😉

I think Sam is rocking her Viking-ness, don't you? ;)
Sam has her hair in two braids too… it’s just not long enough to hang loose, hahaha!


And this one, my little Astrid!  She's so happy!
And this one, my little Astrid! She’s so happy!

The girls were so excited to wear them and try them on, they didn’t want to take them off.  It’s made well too.  There’s nothing sharp or pointed sticking out and it’s comfortable.  Sure, with the layering and the boots the pieces are a tad bit warm, but I haven’t heard a single complaint on discomfort from the girls.

We’ve had them wear it to practically every single Halloween party there is.  So actually, if I depreciate the investment put into these two costumes by the number of times used (including the ones we’ve yet to go to, as Halloween isn’t over yet!), then it’s really not half bad at all!  But really, their happiness alone is priceless.

I love it that the girls wear it gamely.  They get compliments for it too.  Those who know who these characters are think that they’re so cool to have picked this as a theme for the year.  I certainly didn’t plant the seed in their heads; they thought of it all by themselves.  Not many understand their choice or can recognize the costume as vikings (A warrior princess?!), but that’s okay.  Sam and Jamie know who they are, they’re proud to wear their costumes, and that’s all that matters to me.

Happy Halloween folks! 😉  Trick-or-treat!

Mommy Anecdotes My Mommyology's Manila Chapter

Costumes-Smoshtumes and Let’s Pretend Week

Oh October.  It really puts my creativity (or lack thereof) to the test.  Who ever thought Halloween could take so much out of you?

I remember growing up it was just one costume per year.  And my mom would usually have me make mine myself, with whatever materials and clothes I had at home.  I remember one year I was a dalmatian because I had a white shirt and a pair of white pants and I had to cut out black spots from paper and stick it on.  My headband, we dressed with black droopy paper ears.  I don’t remember much after that one.

With my kids though, it seems as if we have more than one round of costume per Halloween season.  For Sam’s first year she just had one.  After that, it sort of compounded.  I think Summer Camp added to the growing props and make-shift costumes, so Jamie was born into a home full of dress-up fun.

Now both girls still love playing dress-up, and they play it on a regular basis.  In fact that’s probably why we’ve accumulated so many little trinkets here and there apart from the Halloween costumes that Sam has worn in the past.  Thank goodness I have two girls, as those costumes get more wear out of them than I’d initially thought they would!

Jamie’s school is fairly creative.  They find all sorts of occasions for the kids to be animals or fairies and give them some role to play.  I think that’s why Jamie is great at pretend play at such a young age.

The week before Halloween, the teachers send the parents a memo for Let’s Pretend week, where they coat their curriculum around different themes from Monday – Thursday.  On Friday for their culmination they let the kids wear whatever it is they want and they have a true trick-or-treat session in the nearby area.

Last year when I saw the list I panicked.  Jamie’s teacher saw the look on my face and assured me that they weren’t expecting us to buy anything new, but to just be creative.

Man.  I had images of my black paper spots falling off with my creativity years ago (or lack thereof).

I think the most that I actually had to make was Jamie’s blue hair as Thing 2.

She didn't like her Thing 2 crazy hair very much... ooops.
She didn’t like her Thing 2 crazy hair very much… ooops.

We survived last year’s themes, and I’d forgotten about the panicked feeling until I saw the memo again this year.  To be fair, the school gives the parents ample time to digest Let’s Pretend Week and prepare for it.  As my friend Trina says, there are some parents who will just slap on a princess costume and be done with it (And what do the kids know right?  You just tell them a story to justify the same costume everyday and it’ll still work).  Now while I can’t bring myself to buy five different costumes that will be worn only once (it’s not like Jamie can hand-me-down to Sam…), I also cannot do that to my child (this is just me – no judgements please!).  Hence, the challenge to think of something new to wear everyday.  And besides, Jamie gets excited.  She sees her pictures and we talk about what she’ll wear, I think she’d know if I was putting her in the same costume but giving her a different story.

For this year’s let’s pretend week, Jamie had a theme.  Three out of her five costumes were insect-based.

She was a bumblebee for Animal Day.

I'm bringin' home a baby bumblebee...
I’m bringin’ home a baby bumblebee…

And then the Eency Weensy Spider for Storybook day.

Same suit, different child.
Same suit, different child.

Are you noticing a trend?

For Peter Pan Day, Jamie wanted to go as a fairy.  I had purple butterfly wings and I figured I could put her in a tutu dress with glitter.  But then again when she watched Jake and the Neverland Pirates she said she wanted to be a pirate.  And thankfully, Ate was a pirate two years ago too! 😉

Yo-ho Let's go!
Yo-ho Let’s go!

Jamie said she was “Mistah Smeeee!”, and she was happy to be so, on a pirate ship.  So even if the costume wasn’t exactly like Mr. Smee, I figured this one I could let slide because her imagination was bigger than that.

Last year and this year, there was a Superhero theme.  No other Superwomen come to mind than Wonderwoman, Batgirl and Elastigirl… none of whom Jamie could relate to because she didn’t know them.  The one superhero she did know was Spiderman (thanks to my brother’s collection maybe).  Maybe Spiderman was the easiest to remember because of her interest in animals and insects.

And thankfully, The Fatherland and Missus Big bought a spidey costume for their son.  He refused to wear it because he wanted to be a rainbow instead (and MY GOD.  That rainbow costume is a true labor of love and an absolute WINNER in my eyes!), and so Jamie was happy to borrow it.

With the graceful hands and Bunny.  Always, with Bunny.
With the graceful hands and Bunny. Always, with Bunny.  Who said Superheros couldn’t have bunnies?

Complete with the mask too!  I have to say, I was surprised at her willingness to wear even the mask.  I suppose that’s Jamie for you though — she really is full of surprises.

So as you can see, if it’s not a hand-me-down, it’s a borrow-me-please type of costume.  And why not?  The kids have fun and the costume’s value improves with every person’s wear.

That was most of Let’s Pretend week for us, and again I made it through alive.  Jamie in fact wanted to stay in her costumes the whole day.  I just had to convince they were dirty so that they could get washed.  The last day is a “wear any costume” kind of day.  Since we’d exhausted most of the artillery of costumes already, it was just about that time to think of something new for Jamie.  How we got to her costume of choice this year deserves another blog post in itself. 😉

What are your kids’ costumes this Halloween season?

Mommy Anecdotes Mommyology Current Affairs My Mommyology's Manila Chapter

It’s Halloween Week on My Mommyology!

Happy Holiday Monday!

This week on the blog, we will follow the Halloween theme.  My kids love Halloween.  I learned to love it too when we were in Chapel Hill because it signaled the start of Fall.  We never made our own pumpkins though.  And fall and Halloween, it is – was – the perfect weather to play outside.  Not too hot, not too chilly… It was and still is my favorite season of all.  I just checked the 7-day forecast:  they’re already hitting the high 30’s over there!

In any case, it’s Halloween week.  And if you’ve also been following my instagram posts, the girls have gone through several rounds of costumes.  But we’ll get to that!  There are other things and themes that are related to the “season” which fit nicely into this theme.  So I hope you’re up for it! 😉

Trick or Treat!
Trick or Treat!
Mommy Anecdotes My Mommyology's Manila Chapter

The Halloween Hangover

Halloween may just be Sam’s most favorite occasion.  I just realized how much she loves to play dress-up lately and Halloween gives her the perfect excuse to do it (and she can get treats we wouldn’t normally give her too!).

This year was a little funny in terms of our costume master plan.  Early on in the year Sam took a liking to the Toy Story films we got her dad for Father’s Day (It was a double-purpose gift obviously — similar to the anniversary gifts I’d received in the past) and so she asked if she could be Woody for Halloween.  I was surprised that she didn’t relate to Jesse more but anything is okay nonetheless.  I am in support for whatever it is she wants to be and explore, be they boy or girl or gender neutral in nature.

I got her the Woody outfit for the summer and she wore it practically everyday after camp.  The plan was to have Jamie eventually dress as Jesse, however as a last-minute change that didn’t work out and Jamie ended up as Abby Cadabby, the costume we had in storage from when Sam turned 2 (If you read my Halloween post last year, you can pretty much guess what Jamie will be next year!).

My Mommyology Costume Ensemble v1
A Woody and a (cool) Abby Cadabby

Sam used the Woody costume in several pre-Halloween parties, and I think she felt a little out-of-place because no one called her “Woody”.  They all would say “cowgirl” or “Jesse”. Even I couldn’t get why since, I thought the Woody and Jesse costumes were very distinct (Or is it because I’m just a Toy Story fan?).    At first Sam would correct them and say, “No I’m Woody,”but then eventually she stopped and just smiled and let everyone think what they wanted to think.  Her smile was bigger though towards my friends and other like-minded parents and relatives who called her out immediately as “Sheriff Woody” and commended her for making such a cool unexpected choice for a little girl.

And then at some point closer to Halloween, Sam decided she wanted to be a spider instead.  While everyone around her wanted to be some form of princess or fairy or flower… she got it in her head to be a spider.  I was willing to comply, even if I thought it a bit odd.  Even my husband couldn’t believe it when I told him — “A what?!” was all he could say.

So for three weeks I searched high and low for a 4T sized spider costume.  Some parents told me I could easily make one but unlike OCMom and her award-winning DIY costume-making skills, I didn’t have it in me.  Like cutting children’s hair, costume-making is not in my mommy resume.

I’d have to say that I was quite disappointed.  We went to 4 different stores that sell costumes, and all of them had pretty much the same choice options:  princess or witch (or some variation of them).  They had a Spiderman costume but Sam said that she wanted one with 8 legs, not the superhero.  There were a few but only for kids 24 months and under, and even those choices were so limiting (spider, pumpkin, some fruit or vegetable, and a furry animal…) that I didn’t bother looking for a different costume for Jamie to wear either.

I had Peggy Orenstein’s book in my head about how we stereotype girls early on and the costume choices available were proof of that.  Here is my daughter with her imagination and creativity running free (just like in her ballet recital, instead of being a bunny or a ladybug, Sam wanted to be a monkey!) and yet all she was being offered were princesses from different fairy tales and their witch counterparts.  She said no to all of them each time and didn’t change her mind.  I even confessed to Sam that we’d exhausted all local options and she just said to me unfazed, “It’s okay mom – you’ll find one.”  Talk about faith in your mother!!

I ended up ordering from Amazon as a friend was willing to bring it home for her, but after a few shipping glitches we realized that it wouldn’t make it back in time.  In the end I was able to convince Sam that a feminine-looking little bumblebee would have to do and she did comply, but only wore it to one party.  Her story when people commended her on being a bumblebee was that she was supposed to be a spider, but mom couldn’t find a costume.  Gee, thanks.

Two days ago, my Mother-in-law dropped off the things she brought home for us from her latest trip to the states and Sam finally got her wish.  The spider costume came in with the loot along with a few other things, and we opened it up.  Sam wore it THE. WHOLE. AFTERNOON.  She picked up her pumpkin bucket and started going from room to room pretending to trick-or-treat too, and she filled her bucket with things from the cupboard and little knick knacks here and there.  Today she said she wanted to be a spider again and hopefully we could all go trick-or-treating.  “Please Mom?!”

I used to think that Halloween costumes were an inefficient use of funds because the child would only wear it once, but boy have I been proven wrong!  To date, our dress-up bin of clothes, props and accessories continues to grow in size because we still keep all the costumes the girls have asked for and have made (such as princess crowns and the like).  Sam and Jamie (and their dad) find different reasons to be someone or some thing almost everyday, and it is great for their creativity and imagination.  Sometimes Sam will put up something with lots of circles and say she is a Polka-dot Maker.  I love it!  For now though, her flavor of the month is the spider and spinning webs, and so we shall be just that.

Jamie in the meantime has taken to her sister’s Toy Story likings and tries to keep up with the Halloween dress-up games too…

My Mommyology Costumes v2
A Happy Spider and the cutest Zurg I’ve ever seen! 🙂