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?!?!

~

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!)

~

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.

~

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.

~

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 Halloween Party in the Woods

A Halloween Party in the Woods

Two years ago, probably a day after Halloween, I was struck with another of those impossible-to-ignore urges to throw a specific party for my favorite little kiddos.

A Halloween party.

In the woods.

And I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like…

I saw a spread in Country Living once (hey look! I found it: click here) featuring an outdoor Halloween party inspired by festivities of yore where costumes were less “dress-like-your-favorite-Disney-princess” and more festive and Halloweenish. Here’s an example of one of the antique costumes at the party:

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I was completely taken with the idea, and tucked it away in the back of my brain where it sat for years. Every Halloween, I would think about it and pine for such a party and costumage (you can go ahead and add that word to your handy-dandy-Mrs. Gore-Dictionary); and as Halloween 2011 drew to a close, I made a decision. We would have our old-school Halloween party next year, or I would die trying.

Only one problem.

Vintage Halloween clothes are ‘spensive. And rare. And just like there weren’t a lot of WWII-kids-party supplies out there when it was time for Gid’s 6th birthday, I had trouble finding any reproductions of old-school Halloween clothes on the market today. I know, right? Cray-cray.

So we did the next best thing and bought every Halloween dress and accessory that Cracker Barrel had to offer. Every year, they sell an assortment of black, orange, purple or gold dresses with lots of tulle, and by the time we bought them after Halloween, they cost about as much as an Arby’s value meal.

Thus, for a full year, my Mom had bags of poofy dresses and funny hats hidden in her closet, waiting to surprise the children on a beautiful October afternoon in 2012.

Oh, and there was one bright orange shirt for Gideon from the hunting section at Wal-Mart.

And here were the goals of our party: 1. The entire concept had to be a surprise – when the kids arrived at Grandmother’s house for the party, we wanted them to have NO IDEA where they would be going or what they would be wearing, 2. We wanted to allow them to walk through the woods to the party alone – with the oldest being 8, this would be a big and memorable deal for them (and Amy would shadow them with her camera, of course!), and 3. Have a festive and magical hole-in-the-wall-type party all set up when they arrived.

And shiver me broomstick, we did it! I will admit, I almost died of fatigue before this party even started, loading and unloading mountains of supplies, single-handedly arranging all those haybales and pumpkins, and then there were the three giant wasps nests we discovered above the party table about an hour before go-time (my Mom is a rockstar and slayed every single one of them without fear)…

but this afternoon will forever be cherished in my heart as one of my favorites. The kids loved it. And I loved watching them love it. Take a look…

Amy made these labels that we taped over vintage milk bottles and filled with assorted candies.

Amy made these labels that we taped over vintage milk bottles and filled with assorted candies. We placed one at each child’s seat and they passed them around so they could sample all of the different flavors.

Welcome to our Halloween party in the woods!

Welcome to our Halloween party in the woods!

A sparkly bat greeted our little guests.

A sparkly bat greeted our little guests.

I lined the pathway with pumpkins we borrowed from a nearby farm and filled in the path with crunchy leaves. Very fun!

The pathway was lined with pumpkins we borrowed from a nearby farm and was filled in with crunchy leaves. Very fun! And free!!

We made a simple sacklunch for each child and had it sitting on a real plate with real silverware - we wanted this party to have an authentic tea-partyish feel, but heavy on Halloween.

We made a simple sacklunch for each child and had it sitting on a real plate with real silverware – we wanted this party to have an authentic tea-partyish feel, with a heavy emphasis on Halloween.

The table was simple, but festive, and very easy to put together.

The table was simple, but festive, and very easy to put together.

Donuts from a Tulsa bakery - I considered for two seconds making some from scratch, but Mrs. Gore ain't got time for that.

Donuts from a Tulsa bakery – I considered for two seconds making some from scratch, but Mrs. Gore ain’t got time for that.

Very rustic caramel apples, speared through with a twig from the backyard.

Very rustic caramel apples, speared through with twigs from the backyard.

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You can’t see them very well, but we also hung black bats and festive lights from the ceiling.

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The kids LOVED their surprise costumes. Each one was different (but similar), and each girl had a funny hat to wear (Gideon got a black superhero mask). Anna’s hat had a giant spider on the top, but still looked very beautiful and fancy.

Funny...Amy and I dressed in all black and wore funny hats and accessories with absolutely NO intention of looking like witches. But we totally look like witches.

Funny…Amy and I dressed in all black and wore funny hats and accessories with absolutely NO intention of looking like witches. But…we totally look like witches.

Time to walk down the wooded path to the party! Everyone lined up, including our very uninvited guest, Batman the Cat.

Time to walk down the wooded path to the party! Everyone lined up, including our very uninvited guest, Batman the Cat. More on him later.

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Marching to Halloween! I was pretty giddy about this part of the party…

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Which way do we go?…

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That way!!

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They found us! And good thing, too, because I was about to eat all their candy.

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Ready to party.

I swear to you, just like our witch costumes were accidental, we did NOT invite my parents' cat, Batman, to our party. He followed the kids, and was by far our best Halloween decoration.

So. The cat. I swear to you, just like our witch costumes were accidental, we did NOT invite my parents’ cat, Batman, to our party. He appeared out of nowhere and followed the kids, but was by far the best Halloween decoration we had at our party. Way to go, Batman!

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I had to take a minute to get a picture of Amy and her girls (and the cat). They all looked so beautiful! (You too, Batman).

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And I have to brag on my party guests…

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they are used to their weird Mama/Auntie, so they gladly took a few “fake party pictures” for my blog before digging in to their treats.

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I’ve never been so proud. 🙂

Rebekah and Kate enjoy their party and some lively conversation.

Rebekah and Kate enjoy their candy and some lively BFF conversation.

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After their meal was consumed, Grandmother had a special game planned for them where they had to find special treats and surprises she had hidden in the woods.

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It took some earnest searching…

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but all the treasures were eventually found…

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and the rest of the evening was leisurely spent, playing, talking and daydreaming. One of my favorite things about children is that they need very little to entertain them. Just give them the great outdoors…

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and some playmates…

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and they’ll stay happily occupied for hours.

~

As a fittingly full moon began to shine through the trees…

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our Halloween party in the Woods mozied to an end and we made our way back to Grandmother and Granddaddy’s house…

tired?

Oh yes!

With a huge mess to clean up?

Indeed.

But our Halloween-lovin’ hearts were oh so full and happy…

especially Batman’s.

~

Happy Halloween, dear friends!

Halloween Magic

Well, its finally here…

The day of our year that most inspires our imagination.

The day where it is perfectly alright to eat candy for breakfast, lunch, supper and dessert.

The day when my kids actually look normal and have minions of other costumed children to blend in with.

Happy Halloween, everybody!!!

Thinking back over all of our past celebrations has left me a bit sentimental tonight, and I have a gut feeling that someday, I’ll painfully miss these days of playing dress-up with my kids. I have a deep affection for all holidays, but Halloween is truly special with its beautiful Fall backdrop and its cozy warmth and whimsy. And there is something so fulfilling about helping the innocent dreams of my children come true as I scour the internet and our closets to find costumes that will best help them look like their favorite characters.

This year is sure to be a special memory for all of us, and I’ll share more about that in the days and weeks to come…

But for now, I’d like to share with you the most special moment of last year’s Halloween. We had been busy, busy, busy, getting dressed in our pioneer costumes, meeting up with Jerry and Amy and the girls, taking lots of photographs, loading up into our covered wagon, trick-or-treating all over town, and I had been quite wrapped up in just keeping the festivities moving and keeping the children happy. We were at our last stop of the evening, a hustling and bustling Trunk-or-Treat at our town’s Assembly of God church, and we were stopping at each car to get candy, saying “hello!” and “how do you do?!” to townspeople we hadn’t seen in months, and the air was just positively thick with celebration and Halloweenish goodwill. That’s when I happened to look down and take notice of Miss Sunday, my fair-haired little Indian maiden.

She had reached up and taken my hand, and I noticed that her confident and bossy aura had been replaced by one that was subdued and watchful, and just for a couple breaths of a moment, I had the joy of seeing on her face one of the most beautiful facets of childhood. She was in awe. She was overwhelmed. She had slowed down in her running and gunning and had taken time to look around her and feel the wonder that a night of merriment with one’s family can bring. Halloween had captured her for a moment, and what I saw on her face and felt in her touch took me back to my own childhood, and the many similar moments I experienced growing up in our free and bountiful country. Moments so big and so over-the-top that the only thing I knew to do was sidle up close to my Mama and grab her hand, anchoring myself to what was normal and safe, even as my heart and my imagination were captured by what I saw taking place around me…

Trick-or-treating.

A hugely lit Christmas tree.

Musicians or actors on a stage.

Fireworks.

Sunday worship.

My heart would catch within me, and I would study the people and the scenery around me, trying to understand the mysteries of life and why we were doing what we were doing, sometimes unsure of how I felt about it, but mostly…happy. Especially with Mama by my side.

I can’t believe I’m the Mama now.

I can’t believe how wonderful it feels to anchor my little ones on their biggest days.

I can’t believe Halloween – and all the days in between – is even more magical now than it was then.

Life is beautiful. Enjoy celebrating it today!

And I’d love to hear from you…what are you dressing up as? What are your plans? Any special memories or funny stories to share?

Halloween Costumes = Family Fun (Part Two)

So, yes…

last year just happened to be my favorite Halloween EVER.

But how could it not be?

Gideon was in love with Davy Crockett.

My nieces were studying “Little House on the Prairie” in homeschool.

Amy’s parents made a covered wagon for us to trick-or-treat in.

The stars had obviously aligned for the perfect Halloween theme for an extended family of 10. Is it okay for a Southern Baptist pastor’s wife to thank God for Halloween blessings? Don’t answer that…

Anyway, Jerry, Amy and their 3 girls dressed as Pa, Ma, Mary, Laura, and Baby Carrie Ingalls.

Our family dressed as a hodge podge of frontierspeople, starring Davy Crockett (played by Gideon), accompanied by his pioneer friend (who also doubled as Pa Ingalls friend, Mr. Edwards), his friend’s Indian wife (my very first costume repeat), and their two daughters. Our favorite part of this costuming was that Rebekah Sunday looked like the picture of a frontiersgirl who had been kidnapped in her infancy and raised by Indians, with her cornflower blue eyes and golden yellow braids. And I obviously read a lot of Christian fiction.

Truly, though. I have never in my life experienced such a joyfully fun Halloween, and I hope I never forget sitting in the back of the electric Mule watching my son and nieces being toted around town in a super-awesome covered wagon.

I seriously don’t know how we’re going to top it.

Actually, yeah I do. Halloween 2012. Coming soon to Mrs. Gore’s Diary…