a party in pictures

A month or so ago, I posted the following on Dairy’s Facebook page.

I used to be the mom who went absolutely apesh-t for Halloween. Well, every holiday really, but Halloween has always been something of a high holy day around here. (Not the literal kind and that is in no way meant to be disrespectful of ya know, actual high holy days.)

But I was the mom who threw the party for 30 kids. Who made invitations by hand and then spent days baking and decorating trays upon trays of sugar cookies in every imaginable shape and color, piping spider webs onto cakes, making mummy hot dogs and cutting jack o’lanterns into quesadillas. I was the mom up night after night cutting 30 construction paper ghosts and 30 construction paper witches to be decorated by 60 little hands, going to 3 different stores to find 30 little pumpkins to be glitter glued. I was the mom decorating the house. Oh, the house.

There were things I really liked about being that mom.

I loved my kids faces as they happened upon a silly little decoration that I’d strategically placed for their discovery. I loved watching them delight in choosing and creating their costumes — one for the party and one for trick or treating — never the same one twice. heaven forbid.

I loved going to the pumpkin patch in search of the most perfectly imperfect pumpkins and collecting those that we were certain were destined to be ours, and taking far, far too many pictures of the whole affair.

I loved being that mom … but I was exhausted.

Somewhere along the way, I became the mom who, for the life of her, couldn’t figure out how that other mom had done it. Who was imply too drained to think about anything more than a pumpkin on the stoop, lucky if we got one at all, no less from an actual pumpkin patch. Who said, “Maybe next year, kiddo,” three years in a row when asked about a party. “We’ve just got too much going on right now.” Who hasn’t baked a cookie in as long as she can remember.

This year, it was Brooke who asked for a party. Katie asked if she could invite a friend or two to help out with the younger kids. And I looked at my girls, growing up as if by some dirty little trick of time-lapse photography. Elementary school gone, middle school zipping by, high school and then college nipping at our heels.

I nudged the party mom. We needed to have a chat, she and I. We needed to do this right.

We started early, taking small bites. Invitations were emailed via Paperless Post. Instead of tray after tray of cookies, we got creative, planning things that require less time, but no less love.

I think that mom is finally, after all these years, starting to get it. And I have to say, it’s good to have her back.

I swore I’d dial it back. And I did. Kinda. Sorta. Okay, maybe not really at all.

Listen, we all have our skill sets. Dialing it down when my kid has big ideas for a party? Not one of mine.

Brooke invited twenty girls: two from her adaptive dance class, two from her middle school program, one from her preschool program, one whose mom reached out last year in hopes of finding another autistic girl to hang out with and whom she now calls her best friend, and the rest from elementary school. Sixteen came. Of twenty that she invited, sixteen came. Five autistic, eleven neurotypical, all awesome kids. It made for a flappy, happy, giggly, stimmy party where the only reaction to a mid-party meltdown was Brooke very quietly telling the girl who was having a hard time, “I’m glad you’re here. I love you,” before giving her the space that she needed to recover. It was a pretty incredible thing.

So here goes. I give you …  Brooke’s Halloween Extravaganza.




{image is a photo of our mailbox, adorned with orange and black balloons to herald the festivities within. (Within the house, not the mailbox. That would have been a very small party. Moving on.}

I realized the night before the party that we’d yet to take the kids on our yearly pumpkin picking outing. Sure that I’d be violating some fundamental law of Halloween party throwing if there were no pumpkins, Luau and I picked up this beauty at the supermarket on Saturday night. Yup, that’s how we spent our date night. As I posted on Facebook, it’s official, we are the least cool people on the planet. But damn it, we had pumpkins.


{image is a photo of our supermarket pumpkin next to a blue planter engraved with “The Wilsons” on our doorstep. Yes, there should probably be a plant in the planter. I tried that once. It didn’t end well. Now it holds the town newspapers that we never read.}


{image is a photo of the Trick or Treat sign adorning our front door, which, sort of inexplicably, has a tutu and glittery stockinged witch legs sticking out from under it. I can’t help it. I love this thing.}


{image is a photo of our entryway, or, if you want to be fancy about it, our foyer. For extra fancy points, you can call it a foy-yay like my mom does, but I would only recommend that if you’re comfortable being teased about it on your daughter’s blog. Detailed descriptions are on the close-ups of each item below.}


{image is a photo of a sign hanging in the entryway. It reads, “The witching hour is upon us!” I found it, along with almost everything else that I bought this year, at Michael’s. They had a 40% and then another 50% off sale a couple of weeks before Halloween and I might have sort of gone just a wee bit over the top. But dude, 40% less 50% is like … math, carry the one, more math … free.}

A few years ago, Luau and I went to an around-the-world mixer for Katie’s school around this time of year. One of the host families had a Halloween tree and I was pretty much convinced it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. We’re talking Christmas tree-sized, fully decorated HALLOWEEN TREE. Up until that moment, I’d had no idea that I’d been depriving my family of the this sacred tradition, but I vowed to make it right.

This is what I came up with.

I assume you can picture me hanging my head.

It’s like the Charlie Brown tree of Halloween. But worse.

But here’s the thing … it turned out that actual full-size Halloween trees start at around $250 and well, let’s just say that wasn’t happening. There was also the little issue of storing the darn thing, about which Luau was, well, vocal. So yeah, this is what we’ve got. A $16 tree that I got marked down to $4.80.

My kids can work it out in therapy.


{image is a photo of a very small, sort of pathetic, but well-loved table top Halloween tree. Scattered around it are sparkly spiders and spooky, old-fashioned potion and venom bottles, which were the Thank You gifts to Katie’s friends for helping out with the party.}

This is, hands down, my favorite thing in the entryway. Back when Brooke was terrified of dogs, we didn’t think we’d ever be able to get a live one, no less two. So we got this guy. Since we bought him on Nantucket, we oh-so-creatively named him Nantucket. He doesn’t like to be left out of the festivities.


{image is a photo of Nantucket, a sculptor’s rendering of a dog. He is wearing a Vineyard Vines collar and my very large purple witch hat }

No place in the house is immune.


{image is a photo of the front stairs, upon which sits a ceramic pumpkin lantern and various silly signs. The ones that are visible in the picture read, “It’s all about the candy!” and, “Witchy Witchy Screamy Screamy Happy Happy Halloweeny!”}

A little further up the stairs sits Punkin Head, who has been around for s0 many Halloweens now that I have no idea where she came from.


{image is a photo of a doll with a pumpkin head, holding giant candy corn. I’m not completely sure if it’s creepy or cute, but it’s Halloween, so either is fine, right? Right.}


{image is a photo of the Halloween wreath at the top of the stairs. It matches the garland which runs up the banister. After writing that last sentence, I don’t think that I can deny that this has gone too far.}


{image is a photo of the doors between the living room and the office (better known to Diary readers as the Balloon Room.) They are festooned with paper doll style ghosts. Best dollar ever spent. Yup, literally. A buck at Michael’s. I know, right? Also, Katie is convinced that they look like angels, so expect to see them there until Christmas, kids.}


{image is a photo of the very silly haunted house that sits on the living room table.Because I know someone is going to ask, that’s Katie’s telescope in the background next to the piano.}


{image is the entry to the dining room, decorated with felt letters that read, “Happy Halloween” just in case, ya know, you were still unsure what holiday it is.}


{image is a photo of Grandma Wilson’s chandelier, which presided over the festivities in the dining room. It is decorated with sparkly spiders and totally ridiculous glass eye ball ornaments. I hope she would have approved.}


{image is a photo of the sparkly pumpkins on the favor table, also known as the side board in the dining room. Brooke loves these pumpkins. No, seriously. She. LOVES. These. Glittery. Pumpkins.}


{image is a photo of the party favors. This is one of many reasons that I love when my girls opt for all-girl parties. Cause we get to give out favors like these. They are very glittery cat masks, which we found at Michael’s in the sale I mentioned above, making them $3 each. The girls loved them. A happy dance might have been involved.}


{image is a photo of the doors between the dining room and the kitchen, adorned with spider garland and a “Beware” sign that looks way nicer than it actually is. (It’s foam.) In the background is the apple bobbing bucket, which we put on the kitchen table and then realized was way (like WAY) too high for bobbing. Therefore, what is also visible in the background is a step stool in front of said bobbing bucket.}


{image is a photo of the apples. Is it sad that I wasn’t sure if they would float and my eighth grader had to explain density and buoyancy to me? Don’t answer that.}


{image is the best photo that I could manage of the donuts hanging from strings on the ceiling. For those unfamiliar with one of our more bizarre fall traditions, the object of this game is to eat the donut with your hands behind your back faster than your opponents. It’s way, way harder than you might think, given that the donut swings. A lot. The kids convinced the grown ups to take a turn. As I chased the swinging donut with my open mouth, Katie stuck a camera in my face and said, “Hey, Mama, sayyyyy, “Humiliation!” A) I nearly peed myself laughing. B) No, you won’t see the picture.}


{image is a photo of the drinks — two liter soda bottles whose labels have been replaced and now read, “Bats Brew,” “Zombie Tonic,” “Spider Cider,” and “Bone Juice.”}


{image is a really bad photo of the entry to the den. I’m in love with the witch hat garland though, so I’m showing it to you anyway.}

Okay, so that’s all fine and dandy, but let’s be honest, you didn’t come here to look at the decorations. So here it is, the food.

I must start by saying that not a single one of these was an original idea. Every single thing that I made came from Pinterest. As such, I was convinced that these photos would likely find a home on Pinterest Fails, but I’m happy to say that, with the exception of the Creepy Caterpillars, with which I wasn’t so impressed, I was feeling pretty good about the lot of it.

The funny part is that, while Brooke was excited to serve all of these snacks, especially the various “poops,” she didn’t / wouldn’t actually eat any of it. She ate a pudding cup BEFORE it had the “dirt” and the ghost in it and she “stole” a couple of plain Oreos from which she ate only the cookies, but during the party, she asked me to cut up an apple for her. What can I say, the kid is a purist. Thankfully her guests were far less particular.


{image is a photo of my kitchen counter, covered in baking / decorating supplies, awesomely photo bombed by Katie.}


{image is a photo of the “Haunted Cemetery,” filled with pudding cup “graves” topped with Oreo “dirt.” Each has a Peeps marshmallow ghost emerging from it.}


{image is a photo of  the”Witches’ Brooms” made from mini Reese’s peanut butter cup “brooms” and pretzel rod “broomsticks.”}

And witches need hats, of course.


{image is a photo of the “Witch Hats” made from upside down Fudge Stripe cookies and Hershey’s Kisses with a sparkly orange icing “hatband” (which is how you stick the Kiss to the cookie.}


{image is a photo of the Cauldrons of Poop: “Witch Poop” (black sixlets), “Pumpkin Poop” (cheese balls), and “Ghost Poop” (marshmallows) all in black plastic cauldrons. These were a huge hit among the party guests. Shocking, I know. Brooke wrote all the signs, by the way, which I love so much. }


{image is a photo of the Creepy Caterpillars (black grapes on skewers with icing and mini chocolate chip eyes.) I liked this one better in concept than execution, but it was nice to have something healthful on the table.}


{image is a photo of the mother of all Halloween snacks, Frankenstein cupcakes. They are made from two cupcakes (white cake with green food coloring) stacked atop one another with green icing in the middle used to affix candy eyes from the craft store, black icing hair and candy corn bolts in the side of his head.}

I am just going to come out and say it, people. I am pretty dang proud of these. I really didn’t think I could pull this one off and, well, I did. When Katie saw them she squealed. Even though Brooke was excited to serve these, I knew she wouldn’t eat one because she won’t touch icing, candy corn, or anything green. She still wanted them for her guests though, which I really kinda love. What was that about autistic people lacking theory of mind again? Yeah, I thought not. Moving on.



{images are two different views of the food table, decorated with various and sundry Halloween items such as pine cones, a sparkly black cat, an equally sparkly jack-o-lantern totem pole thingie, some sparkly spiders and spider rings that the girls could take home.}

And then it was (finally) time for the party. Winston was really excited. See?


{image is a photo of Winston dressed as a hot dog. He’s a spaniel, guys, he always looks sad. He was actually unfazed by the costume.}

These two, on the other hand, were raring to go.


{image is a photo of Katie as Snow White and Brooke as a bumble bee just before the guests arrived. Am I allowed to say they look friggin adorable even though they’re my kids? Screw it, they’re friggin adorable.}

Katie and Brooke had worked together on the itinerary for the party. It looked something like this:

Come in.

Say your name, what you are, and what your favorite thing about Halloween is.

Eat and dance.

Bob for apples.

Eat and dance.

Donut eating contest.

Eat and dance.

Scavenger hunt.

Eat and dance.

Bye Friends!

Brooke was adamant that her bear, Osito (pictured below as a cowboy), be part of the party. There is a much longer story behind this, and one that makes me cry, but for now suffice to say that Katie found a way to include him. One of the Scavenger Hunt items was “a stuffed animal wearing a Halloween costume.” I am in love with this on so many levels.


{image is a photo of four of Brooke’s stuffed animals, dressed in homemade costumes. There’s a bunny princess, a bear JoJo the clown, a dinosaur construction worker and a bear cowboy. While you might not agree that those are what they look like, I dare you to challenge Brooke on that. If her glorious imagination says that a pink fluffy hat is a cowboy hat and madras sneakers are cowboy boots, well, so be it.}

Also on the list of Scavenger hunt items was “a fuzzy sock.” This, my friends, is what happens when you allow a thirteen year-old to plan a scavenger hunt.


{image is a photo of the fuzzy socks that Katie hung from my pantry doors. Keepin it classy, that’s us.}

All in all, there were ten items on the list. We had factored in about 25 minutes for the scavenger hunt. The first team was done in five minutes and thirty seconds and the others followed closely on their heels. They had a blast, but, um, yeah, five minutes and thirty seconds worth of blast. Oops.


{image is a photo of a completed Scavenger Hunt checklist. My favorite part about this is that Katie wrote, “If something is hanging from the wall or ceiling, DO NOT take it. Good advice in general, methinks.}

I have a LOT of pictures from the party, but you know how I feel about kids and Internet privacy, so, alas, you’ll have to imagine the rest. All I know is that for two hours our house was filled with laughter. And my bumble bee hostess was happy.

During the party, she took frequent breaks, seeking out quiet rooms for just long enough to gather herself before running headlong back into the joyful chaos. She ran in circles, scripted to her heart’s content and gleefully roped her guests into joining her in both. She giggled and squealed and happy-stimmed. No one looked twice. She was among friends.

She was thrilled to see her class mates from elementary school. She hugged many of them as soon as they walked in the door and again when they left. It’s hard that she’s not with them, but I know down to my toes that we made the right decision for her. I desperately hope that she feels the same way.

When the last guest had gone, Brooke, still in costume, sighed happily. “That was a great party,” she said. And in that moment, every single little bit of it, from the decorations to the planning to the food she’d never dream of eating but had to serve …  was nothing at all.

Happy Halloween, my friends.


That Mom

P.S. A huge thank you to Luau, who, while mostly absent from this post, did a heck of a lot of work running from place to place (like three different Dunkin Donuts to find two dozen old fashioneds for the contest) and doing a whole lot of set up in the house. He was a rock star. And even though throwing a party when one has raging PMS tends to lead one to not necessarily act, well, grateful for the presence of one’s husband, I am indeed very, very grateful for all that he did to help pull this off for our girl. Thank you, babe. 

13 thoughts on “a party in pictures

  1. Until you mentioned PMS at the end I was worried it was Brooke who struggled after the party.Now I’m wondering if it was you who melted down,because you were relieved it had all gone so well?jk
    This party was such an anticipated event-love how it was a team effort in planning,execution and enjoyment!

  2. I am so glad to see all of those decorations in action!! I work at the store where those come from (in Western NY, though) and it’s fantastic to see them all come together. It looks like a great time! 🙂

  3. “He was a rockstar”. I love that the party was a success, but I love that hubby got involved, even from behind the scenes. Made me cry. I miss my hubby behind the scenes for most of our holidays this past year and a half, being in the hospital with Q for 6 1/2 months and now over here at Ronald McDonald House since January. Doing my best to make Halloween exciting for Q, even though he doesn’t eat candy and has never gone trick or treating outside of school. The therapy dogs came by a Sunday in costume and he definitely enjoyed that. Loved your story today. Thanks 🙂

  4. Brilliant! You are a super family!

    I am going to be a bee Halloween. I am 76 and going to a pizza party. I need wings!

    Sure wish I could have had an awesome party like yours. I never had children, by choice, but I sure was THE AUNT!

    So happy for all of you!

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