An All-American Halloween

A couple of years ago, I saw this precious costume in the Chasing Fireflies catalogue (click on the picture to be taken to the product page).

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Rebekah was singing by then, and I could just picture her in this vintage-inspired get-up with her chubby toddler body singing “God Bless Am-ayy-ica.” Here, I’ll help you to imagine it better.

So I added that costume to my (sorta sad) Halloween wishlist at Amazon with hopes to someday center our family costumes around it.

Is that normal for people to have Halloween wishlists for their family-themed costumes?

Don’t answer that.

But then, darn it, these kids ’round here started getting opinions.

We did “Red Riding Hood“. (Okay, which I was totally pumped about).

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Then Mr. Gore had his back surgery and I barely had time to throw this “Hospital” idea together (which actually won us the costume contest that year! BOOM. Mic drop.)

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Then it was “Star Wars“, all for the love of our then seven-year-old son, Gideon.

And I hope you’ve noticed the glaring omission of the Chasing Fireflies patriotic costume that had now been on my wishlist for THREE-AND-A-HALF YEARS.

Nope, no red-white-and-blue sequined number, just a slumping Darth Vader who doesn’t know how to hold a lightsaber.

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It’s like I’m in prison or something.

Thus, even as Rebekah and I conceded last year to what felt like maybe a Holy-Spirit-led Star Wars decision at our costume planning meeting (don’t judge), we both made it clear before we adjourned that NEXT year (meaning, this year) we would finally do it…

AMERICA.

No comments, no questions, no take-backs.

There was only one problem, however.

Rebekah wasn’t digging the costume I picked out for her all those years ago at Chasing Fireflies.

I’m sorry, WHAT????

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Rather, she fell madly in love with a random Betsy Ross costume that we somehow stumbled across at Amazon one day.

In fact, she loved it so very much that she put it on her Christmas wishlist, even though the smallest size was for 9-11 year olds (she was 5).

And…she got it.

Her Grandpa and Grandma, who have this uncanny ability to sense what their little ones will love the most off of their lists, bought it for her, and it’s true, when I asked Rebekah what her favorite gift was after Christmas, she got all dreamy-eyed and sighed “My Betsy Ross costume!”

So I decided to love it, too.

It was way too big, but she adored it so much, and I said “buh-bye” to my little 1940’s USO girl before 2014 was even over.

Maybe the next time I have a chubby and fabulous preschooler who voluntarily memorizes and sings patriotic songs, I’ll buy it for HER.

But, in all seriousness — if we’re allowed to “be serious” when we’re talking about Halloween costumes — it’s important for a mama to learn somewhere along the line that, if she will just GO with it and release her freakish control-freak tendencies, life can be great and maybe even better than it would have been if she had remained dictator-of-the-costumes-and-all-the-other-stuff.

(For instance, I wouldn’t trade the memories of our “Star Wars” Halloween for ANYTHING!)

But before we get to the costumes, there’s one more thing I want to tell you about.

You guys know me well enough by now to know that we wouldn’t just be dressing up on Halloween and then calling it a day. Everything has to have meaning around here and things that happened on this day need to line up with things that happened on that day and ALSO with things that will happen in the future and I couldn’t help myself…

sometime around two years ago, this costume theme began to grow into another complicated vision that I just couldn’t let go of.

You see, I love the 4th of July almost as much as I love October 31st, and most of the characters we would be portraying on Halloween had also, long, long ago, conveniently been featured in 20th Century wartime propaganda posters.

Well, guess what? I HAPPEN TO LOVE WARTIME PROPAGANDA POSTERS!!! Golly gee, who doesn’t?!?!

So here was the plan: as each person got dressed in their costume on Halloween Day, I dragged them out to our shed through the wet grass to try and replicate the posters that we had found of our characters. Soon, I’ll be sending the photos off to a graphic designer to be turned into posters – featuring us! – that I can hang up every July.

Do I exhaust you?

Because I certainly exhaust myself.

And definitely my husband and my mom.

ANYHOW, I look forward to showing you next summer the wartime posters we’ll hopefully have hanging all around our house!

But enough with the whys and the hows and the whats and the posters.

Are you ready to see this year’s costumes?!?!

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First up, we have Uncle Sam, played by the best of good sports, Mr. Gore.

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What a hero. Not only does he play along with my photo shoots, he then scurries down the street to head up our town’s Trunk or Treat, never once acting embarrassed that he is wearing a taped-on goatee. I love that man.

(p.s. If you are looking for details and links to our costumes for a future Halloween, I have a follow-up post in the works!)

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Next up! Rosie the Riveter, played by your truly.

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I spent a good amount of time on Halloween afternoon practicing Rosie’s pose in front of our computer camera:

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The pose was much harder to replicate when I was outside in the cold in front of the neighbors without a mirror image!

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Can I tell you, though, what I enjoyed most about my costume this year?

Most days, I feel the need to cover up my arms with a cardigan, but I was kinda unexpectedly proud on this day to show off my Mama guns as a tribute to the men and women of the Greatest Generation. There were so many vamped-up costume versions of Rosie out there, making her look all pin-up-y and such, but I ask you, fellow citizens, would the women that Rosie represented be trotting all over town trying to look sexy on Halloween night?

Nay, I say!

They’d be flexing their big ol’ arms from working hard and holding down the homefront and toting around old-fashioned, heavy babies, and they might be a little thick in the middle because they weren’t averse to a good piece of pie after supper. In that regard, the role of Rosie was created for me.

In fact, I mentally called my costume “paunchalicious” because the elastic band of my worksuit sat right on my biggest problem area. It was all good, though.

For this night, I embraced it.

I think it must all go back to the red lipstick. That stuff does something for a girl’s confidence, even when she’s wearing something akin to Carharts.

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Next up, we have the amazing Captain America! I had never seen this particular poster before, but I LOVE it.

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And here’s our “Cap”, about as handsome and inspiring as the original, if I say so myself.

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Gid the Kid loved this costume, purchased for 40% off at the Disney Outlet in Branson, and my biggest struggle was keeping him from wearing it day and night before Halloween. He is still wearing the gloves every day, with every outfit.

I’m just personally thrilled that he’s still cool with wearing costumes. I don’t see Peter Pan much around here anymore, and I was afraid we’d lost him.

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Next we have the beautiful and industrious Betsy Ross. I couldn’t find a Betsy war poster, but this artwork served as our inspiration.

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Here’s our Betsy. Not to be confused with our actual Betsie. This is really Rebekah, my co-heart behind this “America” theme, and the biggest fan ever of the costume she FINALLY got to wear. Special thanks to Grandmother for hauling a sewing machine over at the last minute to shorten the skirt to a wearable length!

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Next, we have the statuesque Lady Liberty!!!

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Played by our actual Betsie (not to be confused with our Rebekah Betsy). Betsie loved, loved, LOVED this costume, and I did, too! I can’t help but feel that it went on sale just for us, after years of being too expensive!!!

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We actually did two poses with the Statue of Liberty, and this second one just positively slays me. Betsie is shy in some scenarios, but on costume picture day, she’s our best actress!

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(#ohhoney)

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And, lastly, I present to you our majestic national bird…

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played by Shepherd Gore!

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I would have made him a nest, but everything was wet, and we had to hurry to get his photos before his 2-year-oldness started showing.

The funniest thing about Shepherd is that he HATED his costume SO BAD. We had tried to put it on him a couple of times, but he ran away from us screaming his head off. I had honestly assumed that he would be wearing his American flag shirt on Halloween night.

Thus, imagine my shock when I was finishing up Rebekah’s photos by the shed and this little eagle came running across the yard towards me, flapping his wings, so he could get his picture made.

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It made me want to say old-ladyish things like “Well, I never!” and “Will wonders never cease?!” It was the best surprise of my night.

So. Those are the official “poster” poses that will be made into our 4th of July decorations.

Now here are just some fun shots we got of each character in between takes.

First, Uncle Sam:

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Okay, so that was the only pose I had of him. I have, like, fifty of that same pose, and you’ll notice in the upcoming pictures that he holds this pose for the entire night. The sky could be falling in on our heads and he would never break character.

Here’s Rosie (these were taken by Gideon, my budding photographer!):

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Captain America:

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Betsy Ross:

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The Statue of Liberty:

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and our Eagle-boy:

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Finally, here’s the whole crew. I will cherish this picture forever!

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And these, too…

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Psst! Little known fact. Did you know that Uncle Sam and Rosie the Riveter fell in love and had patriotic babies? They live underneath the Lincoln Memorial.

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It may feel, sometimes, that our country is going berserk-o, but we’re still mighty proud to live here and call the U.S.A. our home. We’ll fight for her, we’ll pray for her, we’ll pay our taxes and we’ll love her. Until she takes away our right to homeschool, then we’re outta here. Haha. Just kidding. But totally serious.

AMERICA RULES!!!

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Thank you, DEAR readers, as ever, for making Halloween extra fun for me!! Our Facebook group is my favorite place to go to on Halloween night once the kids have eaten ungodly amounts of candy and passed out on the floor.

If you haven’t already, pop over to our page and share a picture of your costume! And ‘like’ our page to get frequent updates and stories from the Gore family. Happy Halloween 2015!!

A Storybook Halloween – Outtakes and Info

 Did I say in my last post (a week ago) that I would share this post “tomorrow”? Silly me. Little Red Riding Hood’s Mother has been super busy taking care of Granny and hasn’t had too much time for blogging… 

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First of all, I am so thrilled with your feedback from our Little Red Riding Hood “storybook”. Thank you for all the encouragement and kind words and ‘likes’ and shares…I’m a lifetime fan of compliments, which is probably why I run a blog that shares posts about every 5 minutes or so.

And if you’ll indulge me for a bit, I’d love to share a little about the day we had this “photo shoot”.

When I have big ideas, I get all atwitter, but if I’m not careful, my excitement can turn into tension, especially if the idea I had is not translated into real life with all of its spontaneity and childish behavior and, sometimes, weather complications (welcome to Oklahoma!).

And the Thursday of our scheduled shoot, as I was ironing dresses, and pulling props from all the nooks of our house, and sweeping the shed, and willing the children to take good naps, I could feel that tension hovering in the distance, enticing me to leap in and see my joy obliterated.

I desperately wanted to refrain from taking that leap.

So, silly as it sounds, I took a moment to pray. It went something like this…

“God, I know there are people starving somewhere in the world today, and that it is of little consequence whether or not we successfully capture the story of Little Red Riding Hood. But I DO want to glorify you today, so please…please…let this be fun for everyone. Let Ben get good photography practice, and let the kids enjoy themselves, and help me to relax and keep things in perspective…(and if this doesn’t work I will try not to throw myself in a lake). Amen.”

And it was amazing. My prayer was answered so graciously, and about 45 minutes after Ben arrived at our house, our entire storybook had been acted out and captured with no crying, no stress, and no whispered threats on my end. I think that was definitely the favorite part of my day. I had fun! The kids obviously had a blast. And Betsie…oh, Betsie. Who knew that my unpredictable little whirlwind would play the part of Granny like a pro?! I still haven’t stopped kissing her for it.

So, as thrilled as I am that the finished product turned out how I had envisioned it, I am even happier that our day was memorable and laidback and that, at the end of it, I had no regrets for acting like a b-hole. Thank you, God, for hearing even the silliest prayers of your silliest children.

Moving on, some of you have mentioned that you might try making your own storybook – I hope you do! And because I love you, I would like to humbly offer a little advice to help your project run smoothly…

1. Photography has become so accessible in our culture, and there are usually amateur or budding photographers in every community. When I heard Ben mention that he would like to add to his portfolio and was eager to practice, I nearly tackled him and said “What day can you come?!” And photographers who are just growing their business are usually very reasonable in their prices. All that to say, the thought of having a real photographer with a real camera capture your “storybook” for you isn’t nearly as far-fetched as it might have been even 5 years ago. And supporting your local photographers is a win-win, for they grow in expertise while you receive a finished product that is both affordable and WAY better than anything you could do on your own.

2. Go outside! Even with your own point-and-shoot camera, outdoor lighting (especially on overcast days) is the best and will do wonders for…well, everything.

3. In my opinion, the more homespun your costumes and set are, the more authentic your storybook will be. Thus, we didn’t purchase much for this project – Granny’s “room” was pieced together from all the stuff in my house that looks like it belongs to a little old lady (I’m an old soul…) and most of our costumes were pulled straight out of our closets. In fact, the only things I bought this year for our Halloween “theme” were…

  • Gideon’s fur booties and wristlets (he got the hat last Christmas), both purchased from Restoration Hardware during their 20% off sale. Click here to see their collection of faux fur gifts. Very warm and very “cool”, these would make great Christmas gifts.
  • The little lace mobcap that the Wolf wore came from Amazon (click here).
  • And Ben’s amazing wife, Leslie (who also edited the photos like a champ!), made Rebekah’s cape for me – and a wonderful job she did!.

4. I like 2-for-1’s…shampoo+conditioner, Swiffer Sweepers, turducken…and so I recommend photographing your storybook around the time of Halloween. By the night of October 31st, we had already taken all of these pictures in our costumes, and I wasn’t worried about them getting dirty, resulting in the most laidback Halloween we’ve had yet. I even thought, “Meh. I might not even dress up tonight…” (But you know I did).

5. Conduct your “photo shoot” after nap time and have supper waiting on the stove as a reward to your cast and crew. It felt rather like a cast party as we all sat around the table and talked about our storybook adventure and slurped up bowls and bowls of potato soup.

6. Speaking of food, have a few snacks hidden amongst your props in case you need to resort to bribery or distractions for your little actors and actresses.

7. And most importantly, be prepared and ready for showtime. When Ben arrived at our house, we were dressed, every scene was set up, and I had a detailed list of every shot I could possibly need to properly tell our story. I had also thoroughly gone over that list with Mr. Gore so he could “be in my head”, and help Ben know what to do should I have to tend to the children or run back to the house for props. Children don’t do well when adults stand around and discuss what to do next, and so we did everything we could to have none of that.

8. After you make your list of needed shots, go back and schedule them in the best possible order. For example, we did the scenes of me and Rebekah first, followed by our group pictures, so I could run back into the house and change into comfortable clothes, leaving me free to help Ben with whatever he needed. Betsie (the loose cannon), was next, before being buckled into her wagon with a box of raisins and some fruit snacks. And then we filled in the middle parts. I am positive that if we hadn’t had this planned out in detail, our day would have been a disaster.

9. One last thing. If you are using a 1-year old as one of your main characters, do not put her in place or put on the final details of her costume until you are truly ready to take your shots. Ben was in place with his camera ready before we sat “Granny” on her bed. We handed her a handkerchief to keep her hands busy, perched her glasses quickly on her nose and then we all stood behind Ben clapping and jumping around like idiots to keep her from fleeing the scene or yanking her hat and glasses off. And what do you know? Heavens to Betsie, it actually worked.

And now, for your further entertainment…

~ Outtakes and deleted scenes ~

We’re so used to looking AT the camera…

One oversight: I forgot to clean all the junk up out of our yard. I am quite sure that Little Red Riding Hood’s mother did not have a big, ugly, green waterhose next to her little cottage house, and had certainly never even heard of a Spiderman bicycle or a Radio Flyer tricycle.

In many shots, our “Wolf” was less than vicious…

and had a little bit of trouble with freeze-frame “running”.

And I can’t get enough of the Granny pictures. Dressing my baby up like an old lady was one of the best parenting moves I’ve ever made.

A few times, my “actors” took dramatic liberties.

For example, the script does not call for Red Riding Hood to hand Granny the flowers that were already sitting on her bedside table (but that’s a great “sick Granny” face, Gid the Kid!)…

and the Wolf is supposed to be afraid of the Woodsman, not bite him!

Sheesh. Thesbians.

A few times, near the end, we had sheer chaos on the set…

but Ben caught some awesome photographs, nonetheless. This one looks like a new twist on “American Gothic” and might have to go on my wall…

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Again, thank you, dear readers, for taking a trip with us into the land of fairy tales and make-believe. Oh, to stay there forever…

and if you do happen to make your own storybook someday, please come back and let me know. I can’t wait to hear all about it!

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