Our First Halloween

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       As any parent knows, Halloween is an exciting event in the life of a child.  The candy, staying out late, getting to dress up in the costume that’s been selected.  But every parent also knows that Halloween can be a stressful time.  Dealing with the brunt of the sugar high, checking for glass in the Smarties or drugs laced in the Snickers bars.  And above all, getting the child’s costume exactly right.  “No MOM!  I wanted a red cowboy hat,” or “those aren’t the same boots that Lady Gaga wears!”  It can be tiring to say the least, and I now know this stress firsthand.  I know this stress firsthand since it’s my first Halloween with my daughter, Lexie.
       I thought that I had gotten out ahead of the game when it came to Halloween and selecting the perfect costume for my child.  Not wanting to be the parent who puts the oxygen mask on their kid before putting it on themselves, I decided that I would be Kelly Kapowski early on.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to convince Lexie that she would make a great Screech.  “That’s fine,” I told her.  “There are aisles full of costumes at PetSmart.  We’ll go together, and you can pick something out for yourself.”
       Lexie was enthusiastic about this outing.  We went in early September to ensure that costumes would still be available in her size.  She had never gotten to choose a Halloween costume before, and she relished the freedom that I had given her.  Like any good parent, I had told her, “you can be whatever you want to be.”  She was ecstatic, and I was ecstatic when within ten minutes of being in the store, she proudly selected a unicorn suit.  “Are you sure, Lexie?” I asked, just to make sure she was happy with her choice.  “Yes, mom,” she declared proudly, “I’m going to be a unicorn.”  “Ok,” I said, “good choice.”  I proceeded to show her costumes for princesses, pumpkins, and cheerleaders before leaving the store.  I wanted to make sure she had seen all of the options, but she was thrilled about being a unicorn.  I had a decisive kid on my hands, and I couldn’t have been more satisfied with her selection if I had picked out the costume myself.  We took it home for a fitting.
         To our chagrin, it turns out that Lexie wears a size small, not an extra-small.  She was embarrassed.  I assured her that it was ok, but this news came on the heels of her finding out that she’s much larger than the standards set by the American Kennel Club for a “desireable” maltese.  It was hard to handle.  We returned the costume for a small, and things seemed to be on the upswing.  She tried on the costume for her grandparents, and everyone seemed happy.  Lexie lapped up the positive attention that she received as a unicorn.
        Since this weekend is the week before Halloween, I asked Lexie if she’d like to wear her costume to the Barktoberfest event happening nearby.  “Sure!” she responded, just as enthusiastically as before.  “I’d love to wear my costume.”  I put it on her and we headed outside, and that’s when her attitude started to shift.  The hood of the store-bought costume either fell directly over her eyes or off of her head entirely, and the hole put in place for her leash didn’t match up with the alignment of her harness.  She wasn’t happy.  “I don’t want to be a unicorn anymore,” she told me sadly.  “Can I pick out something else to wear?”
       With only one week before Halloween, I felt that finding something new at this point would be a very tall order.  Besides, Lexie had made her choice.  She wanted to be a unicorn, and I had already bought her the unicorn costume.  Just because it wasn’t perfect, I felt that she should follow through with her selection, but since it’s our first Halloween together, I also didn’t want anything to tarnish the memory.  I decided that I would let her put a list together of other costumes that she might be interested in and take her to the store to try them on.  Here are the snapshots from our trip.  You’ll never guess what she settled on…

Lexie has often heard the term, "Cotton States," since she hails from Tennessee...

Lexie tries on a cotton costume

She didn't know if she really wanted to be cotton, and Lexie likes the sun, but she's also taken interest in the fluffy white objects in the sky. "Maybe I can be a cloud" ...

Lexie as a cloud

Lexie didn't think a cloud was really for her, but she thought maybe a farm animal costume would be a good choice.

Here she is as a lamb

"A lamb is a little too docile," she said. "I want to be something bigger and stronger... like a polar bear!"

Lexie finds a polar bear costume on one of the shelves!

"Hmm... if I'm going to be an animal," Lexie thought, "maybe I should be a TV character like my mom is going to be."

Here is Lexie as her favorite TV character - Happy from "7th Heaven"

"I don't know about TV," she said, "I'm kind of more into movies these days. How about Falcor from Neverending Story?"

"This Falcor costume is nice," she said, "but maybe a more classic character would be even better..."

"I think I'm going to be the Abomidable Snowman!"

Lexie looks great in the abomidable snowman costume, but then she thought maybe she should be something even more synonymous with classic Halloween.

"Look at this ghost costume!" she exclaimed.

"It fits me perfectly!"... "but you know what mom?" she said. "I think I want to be a unicorn again."

"The unicorn costume is the prettiest one of them all."

"I wanted to be a unicorn all along!"

Weekend with the Grandparents

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Prior to my parents’ visit this past weekend, I had numerous conversations with my pre-schooler about the appropriate etiquette with which to behave around her grandparents.  I thought that we had come to an understanding.  “These people are your family,” I explained to her.  “They’ve traveled a long way to see you.  They love you.”  She nodded along, “yeah, yeah mom, I get it.  I’ll be real pleasant and hold off on sending them my holiday order form until after we’ve met.”  “Holiday order form?” I questioned her.  “Yeah mom, remember?!  You told me to write down all the stuff I want and send it straight to them.  You know!  That list….  For Christmas!”  I silently shook my head.  “Just don’t bark at them,” I pleaded.  “Whatever you do, please don’t bark.”

In a traditional story, this paragraph would begin with Lexie aggressively barking at my parents who had driven eighteen hours to see us, but Lexie isn’t a traditional dog.  Lexie didn’t bark, she didn’t growl, she didn’t wag her tail or even so much as gaze in their direction.  She just sat there.  Shell shocked and fully committing to a completely vacant stare.  It was as though each of our conversations leading up to this moment had gone in one ear and out the other.  It was as though she hadn’t understood a word I’d been saying.

As we walked into our apartment, Lexie repeatedly looked back in the hopes that we’d shaken our predators.  But then they followed us inside.  Most dogs like treats, and Lexie is no exception, so I suggested that my mother approach her with one as a bribe.  Or a peace offering.  Unfortunately, it seems that Lexie might have seen one episode too many of “Lambchops Play-Along” in her past life because the “taking candy from a stranger test” is one that she’s determined to pass with flying colors.  “Let me guess,” she surmised, “you’re also looking for a lost puppy and need me to get in your car to help you find it.  Yeah, and then you’ll sell me a bridge at a real fair price.  I don’t think so!”

Lexie’s reluctance to enjoy a snack with her grandparents wasn’t an isolated incident.  They were with us for two days, and for two days, Lexie didn’t eat one bite. She did drink water though…but only when I brought the bowl directly to her as she held court from her green love seat.  Yes, her green love seat.  The vet cautioned me to thwart off her attempts at becoming the apartment’s co-captain, and my immediate response to this warning was to burst out laughing.  Through my persistent chuckles though, I tried to explain to him that I was already just another passenger sitting in coach, begging for a second bag of pretzels.

My parents made every effort to get Lexie to warm up.  My mom even went so far as to sit next to her in her big green chair.  It seemed that they had been playing a game of “hot/cold,” and as my mom confidently sat in that chair, I could hear Lexie screaming, “ICE COLD” at the top of her lungs, followed by, “GET THE HELL OUT OF MY LOVE SEAT.”  I wanted to tell Lexie that we don’t use language like that, but I knew she’d laugh in my face as I’d done earlier in the vet’s office.  After all, the kid does live with me.

Finally my mom decided to actually pick Lexie up, and I knew that this action would be considered a very bold move in the eyes of my young warrior.  My mom remarked that Lex was “stiff as a board,” and I sensed that this was her attempt at donning a Harry Potter-strength  invisibility cloak to avoid any potential confrontation.  Lexie seemed to be muttering to herself, “don’t make any sudden movements, and the enemy will retreat.”  “Don’t make any sudden movements and the enemy will retreat.”  It had become her survival call.

Lexie looked to me for help, but like any parent of a reluctant pre-schooler, my only response was to imitate Mickey Mouse and tell her that “it’s ok.  Mommy’s here. You’re ok.”  Naturally, as soon as I heard myself speak in this voice, the one that only small people and Muppets have the ability to evoke, my instinct was to stand up, walk outside, and throw myself into oncoming traffic.  But if I went through with that, then what would happen to Lexie?  I realized in that moment that my life isn’t my own anymore.  Becoming roadkill is no longer a viable option for me.

Things seemed to calm down in the evening, and by the time Lexie woke up the following morning, it was obvious that she felt like a brand new woman.  Fresh out of the box.  She enthusiastically licked my face (yum) and playfully followed me outside for her morning stroll, eagerly running back to our front door at its completion.  Alright, I thought to myself, we’re goodThe shock has dissipated.

Just as we had gathered around for pancakes and “Saved By the Bell” though, the winds shifted.  My parents had woken up, and Lexie swiftly reverted to the personality of an inanimate collector’s item propped up on the highest shelf.  It hadn’t been a dream, and Lexie continued on with her lifelong audition of being cast in “Jim Hensen’s The Secret Life of Toys.”  Don’t let the humans see you move.  I’m a toy.  I’m just an ordinary toy.

Sadly, our weekend-long visit came to an end but not before Lexie was able to coax her grandparents into buying her a brand new dish set and into giving her the promise of more glitter to come.  Naturally, I didn’t get anything.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned over time  it’s that once a grandchild has come along, the parent no longer has any use for their own kid anymore.  Destiny has fulfilled itself and the mission has been accomplished.  Also, Lexie wants to earn her keep, so she’s accepting any modeling or television offers that come her way.  And if you do have such an offer for her, I have this to say to you,  “she really has a very charming personality.”