Spooktacular Halloween Family Fun

This post is a collaboration with Kendra (Twitter.com/KendraThornton), a former Director of Orbitz Communications in the Chicago area and now a full-time mom of 3. She loves celebrating holidays with her family, and she has a special affinity for Halloween. She thought it would be great to reflect on the following questions:

1. What is your favorite aspect about Halloween? Does your family have any traditions you do every year? (Pumpkin carving, haunted hay rides, favorite trick or treating candy routes)

2. What is your favorite memory in terms of Halloween? Was it something you did growing up, is it one relating to your children, or was there ever a favorite costume or wore/created?

3. I always try and maintain a healthy eating regime throughout the year; however, once Halloween hits there are always those certain candies and treats I can’t seem resist. Is there a certain type of candy you crave this time of year or a particular dessert you make that is an all time favorite?



Kendra’s Spooktacular Halloween Family Fun

Kendra Thornton Picture

It’s that time of year again. The pumpkin spiced lattes are at the coffee shops and almost every fast food restaurant you visit has something with the word “pumpkin” in it added to the menu. Factor in the cornucopias and fun candied treats, as well as the opportunity to dress up as anyone or anything you want to be, and you have one of the most exciting and tasty times of the year.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays because it is a time of delicious food, lots of treats, costumes, decorations, and the leaves are falling, and there is a ton of family fun to be had. That family fun starts with the kids relying on me to help them out with unique costume ideas, making apple crisp, and ensuring my little trick or treaters come home to some hot cider and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies after an evening of vying for tricks or treats from the friendly folks in the neighborhood.

While it is a lot of fun for me to make treats and even more fun eating them, coming up with costume ideas is a lot of fun for the entire family because it is the costume that is one of the most important aspects for the kids. We take those ideas and we make the costume, order it online, or visit the local costume store to use our imaginations and put something together. When the kids are all dressed up for costume day at school, for their Halloween parties, and for trick or treat night, it is amazing to see how excited they are. On trick or treat night, it is hard to get them to hold still because they can’t wait to show off their costumes while their bags are filled up with as much candy as the neighborhood is willing to put in them.

Once the kids come home with those full bags, they dump their candy onto the floor. They take candy organization very seriously. Once the bags are empty, I check every piece of candy to make sure that there is nothing homemade or opened. Once the questionable pieces are weeded out, the kids then “trade-off” the candy that they don’t like. It is amazing how meticulous they are in this process and how different their candy preferences are from one another, but it works out for them. Where one child is not at all fond of bubble gum that loses its flavor too quickly, the other loves to chew as many pieces as possible, willing to trade sweet tarts for as much bubble gum as the other wants to give up. Despite this “trade-off” process, I still occasionally find one child snooping in the other’s bag in hopes to add to their own candy arsenal without getting caught. No matter how much candy they get, they still want more.

I am so thrilled to be staying in Chicago this year because in previous years past, we haven’t always been in our humble abode! One time, we went on a trip to Orlando and stayed at a hotel during Halloween. My kids weren’t exactly thrilled with the decision at first. However, we managed to make it as interesting as possible and the kids did have a lot of fun. For instance, we helped them make their own pillow sack cases that were decorated any way they wanted. We also allowed them to wear their costumes at the hotel.

We then used the Family Traveler’s Tribe on Gogobot, which paid off because the guests were fantastic in giving the kids candy for their sacks as they trick or treated door-to-door in the hotel. They had a blast because they were able to trick or treat indoors, which enabled them to build their candy collection rather quickly because they didn’t have to run from house-to-house.

Overall, this was definitely a unique holiday experience for us that year, making it a memory for the books. Thinking of how much fun we had that year has me so excited for the 2013 Halloween season. As an added bonus, some of my family is coming up for a visit and I am beginning to think of new treats to make for the guests. Pinterest has been my savior in the food department many times, so I have a feeling it will be this time, too. What does your holiday season look like so far?


Dory’s Halloween Plans: Looking at the Past to Create the Future

Maternity Pictures by Cramer Photography - DoyleDispatch.com

I am a planner. I have always been a planner. I like to know what to expect. Sometimes, as a child, that didn’t always go over very well, but I didn’t have siblings that were close to my age (14 years older and 10 years younger), so I essentially grew up with adults. I learned to be able to expect what adults would do. They were predictable. I liked that.

Because I am a planner, I never really liked the “tricks” of “Trick or Treat,” which is probably why my childhood’s Halloweens were very predictable. I would go out with some of my neighborhood girlfriends (there were 3 of us that were close in age) and we would visit the same houses each year. We lived in a neighborhood of only 50 houses, and most of the residents didn’t have children (or had children that had already grown and moved away). Including us, there were only about 7-10 kids in total in the neighborhood, and so they always made a big deal when we rang the doorbell. It was a fun, special night! We always skipped one house which we deemed “The Witch’s House” because it creeped us out. It never had many lights on (even during the rest of the year), and it was down a long driveway. Our last stop was our favorite: the local Pepsi plant owner’s house. She would take us in and give us a tour of the house (as long as it wasn’t too late) and give us mini Pepsi cans. It was the best!

We did the same thing every year. Then, one by one, we got too “old” to trick-or-treat anymore. It was sad to lose our tradition, but that’s part of growing up, I guess.

Then my brother was born, and I had an excuse to keep going around the neighborhood. Sometimes he would bring friends from other neighborhoods, but most of the time it was just the two of us. Our parents would drive in the car (it was too far to walk to each house, so we had a chauffeur), and I would go out with him and teach him the ropes.

When I got my driver’s license, we would start in our neighborhood and then also drive to a couple of other neighborhoods to capitalize on closer houses and more candy!

Again, we did the same thing every year. Thankfully, Josh was a creature of habit too.

Oh, and we still skipped “The Witch’s House.”

When it came to costumes, my parents always let me be whatever I wanted to be. I always wanted to be something unique, and so we had to figure out how to pull it together with little bits and pieces. Once I was a Troll. I found a footed pajama set, and I taped a big paper “jewel” to my stomach. I also found a crazy wig and used stage makeup to make my skin the Troll-color tan color. I loved that costume.

One year, I wanted to be an astronaut. I had a space suit that I had gotten at Huntsville’s Space Camp. I really wanted to make it seem like I was on the moon, though, so I was convinced I needed Moon Shoes. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find them at any toy store, and this was before Amazon or Ebay. No moon shoes for me, but I still loved my costume!

When I got to college, I did the more scantily-clad costume thing (I didn’t drink or party much at all, so that was my one way to “fit in” to Halloween weekend), but I still liked the creativity of  putting a costume together with bits and pieces of what I had or could buy.

When Tim and I moved to Richmond and bought our house, our Halloween traditions changed. We closed on our house the day before Halloween, so we spent our first Halloween as homeowners in a furniture-empty house with two tailgate chairs and a roll of contact paper, trying to wrap every surface in order to save our kitchen and dishes from gross, old chipped paint. We didn’t dress up, but we did enjoy “meeting” the neighborhood kids that came by. I was overjoyed at the number of trick-or-treaters that we had (about 30), as it seemed amazing! Tim was unimpressed, as he was used to 80-100 coming to his parents’ house.

We have now been in our house 5 years. We don’t dress up, but we do slightly decorate. Just wait until next year, however, with the twins. We may not decorate the house much more than we do now (we will save our energy until they can really remember and enjoy it), but our babies are going to get some amazing costumes! And, yes, they will be mostly homemade!

The thing that makes me yearn to be a parent more than anything are the experiences that we will have as a family. Halloween is an experience. It isn’t about candy (although that it a HUGE perk for a sweet tooth like me). It isn’t about the scary movies (although I LOVE me some Hocus Pocus and Scream). It isn’t even about the costumes (although I can’t wait to get our family costumes together and wow our friends/family with them). It’s about the couple of hours of walking around, interacting with others, ringing doorbells, avoiding houses, and being together. It’s going to the pumpkin patch to pick our own pumpkins. It’s getting our hands dirty and scooping out the pumpkin guts. It’s baking the seeds and fighting over who gets to eat the last one. It’s the fun of putting together a costume instead of buying a ready-made one from the store. It’s pretending to be someone you are not (and you don’t have to audition for this role or be told you aren’t right for it). Yes, Halloween is not a sappy holiday like some others coming up, but for me, it was always defined by the memories, not the stuff. Looking forward, that’s what I’m most excited about!

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  1. Wow…I forgot how many family traditions go into a holiday like Halloween. Even when we don’t go “all out”, you have a knack for remembering the beautiful times, the lovely evenings, and not the ones that were so cold and/or wet you had to wear a winter coat over your “Princess” costume. Don’t ever get cynical….always find that the seeds are the best part. We just have to work a little harder to get them!

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