Thank god for NaBloPoMo, or the Halloween update probably wouldn't be happening until next week.
So first, a bit of backstory. A couple weeks ago, Al and I happened to be at Toys 'R Us (I think we were buying a wagon to bring apple picking), and we spotted an incredibly cute Elmo costume in the Halloween section. It was labeled 6-12 months, I think, but Al tried to squeeze The Beaner into it anyway, just to see how it looked. It was obviously too short in the torso (The Beaner inherited a long torso from both me and Al), but otherwise it looked great. It became our mission to find a suit in The Beaner's size.
I checked on Amazon.com and found several suppliers of suits, but either the size was wrong, the size wasn't listed at all, or the price was astronomical ($52.99 for a toddler costume? are you kidding?). I noticed that the best-priced option was from Target, though the size wasn't listed. I tried the Target website to see if it offered more information, but I didn't see the Elmo suit listed there at all... so the next night we drove to the Target in South Philly to see if we could find one in the store. We struck out completely, but we got some cheap Kleenex as a consolation prize.
A couple days later I had a meeting-free morning, so I headed to the Target in Cherry Hill to pick up a few things (sandwich bags, baby wipes, pipe cleaners) and scout out the costume options. The Beaner was all cheerful when I walked into the garage... until he heard the car start, at which point he completely melted down. I stopped the car halfway out of the garage, and Hannah handed The Beaner to me through the driver's side window. I snuggled him and explained that I was just going to New Jersey, I wasn't leaving him forever, etc. etc., but he didn't cheer up until I asked him if he wanted to come. He nodded, and Hannah went back in the house to grab her shoes and bag. I continued pulling out of the garage, at which point Hannah returned and threatened to sell photos of me driving with my kid on my lap to the tabloids.
We arrived safely at Target 15 minutes later (The Beaner having been buckled into his carseat before we left the driveway), picked up our necessities (all except the pipe cleaners, which apparently are not as ubiquitous as they once were—to the extent that the teenage Target employee I asked about them referred me to the aisle with the Drano, and looked puzzled when I said, "no, the fuzzy wire things you use in craft projects"), and then headed back to the costume section. I did not find a zip-up Elmo suit, but I did find a furry Elmo candy pail and a sleeveless pullover with the same head as the zip-up costume we'd seen at Toys 'R Us. The pail was a huge hit with The Beaner, but the pullover... well, not so much. He cried when we tried to force it over his head, and I never did get the thing all the way on before admitting defeat and struggling to pull it back off again. "Too small!" The Beaner sobbed. "Too small!" (It was a size 3T, but it did indeed seem too small.) We bought the candy pail and the other stuff and called it a day.
On the way home from Target, Hannah and I brainstormed about other costume options. We came up with the idea of sending The Beaner out as Alphaboy, since that's one of his favorite segments on Sesame Street, and because we already have a bunch of foam letters (and numbers) that The Beaner delights in carrying around. "Letter P! Number 2! What happened to 3? Ooooooo, (V)W!" We figured Alphaboy's real costume (a hood and cape) would never fly, but that we might be able to sew, pin, or velcro letters to his shirt and pants and just call him Alphaboy.
As Halloween approached, I discovered that though Al applauded our creativity in coming up with the Alphaboy idea, he'd never really let go of the Elmo idea. When we found ourselves at the Christiana Mall in Delaware, where we'd gone to meet up with my sister, Al proposed that we check out the mall's seasonal Halloween costume store. Amazingly, only three days before Halloween, we found a zip-up Elmo suit in size 3T-4T. The Beaner only protested a little (mostly because we took his shoes off) when we tried it on him, though he began to whimper more loudly once we got him completely into it. The arms and legs were a bit too long, but the torso was just right. To me, however, the true test of whether the thing fit or not was this: "Are you going to wear this if we buy it for you?" I asked The Beaner. "No," he replied. I raised my eyebrows and looked at Al. "I still think we should get it," he said. I could kinda see his logic; agonizing over a lost costume opportunity was not what I wanted to be doing on Halloween night. I couldn't find a price on the suit, and thinking of the wide range I'd seen on Amazon, I asked what Al's threshold was. "$29.99," he replied.
The suit turned out to be $38.99, and Al still voted to get it. For me it was a bit tough to swallow, especially since I was fairly certain that The Beaner would not wear the costume willingly, but I figured what the heck: Maybe he'll want to wear it next year, or we can sell it on eBay next year, or something. And again, no moaning over lost opportunities. So I bought it.
Fast forward to Tuesday night. Al came home a bit early, and I stopped working at around 5:30 so I could set up the black light in the basement and check the lighting of the tombstones out front.
When I returned from taking the photo above (which is atrociously bad; I don't think I had the anti-shake setting on), I found Al and Hannah crouched on the floor, trying to stuff a screaming Beaner into his Elmo suit. I joined the fray, helping to fit the straps around his sneakers and fight his arms into their respective holes. After a few minutes of struggling, I finally grabbed my red-faced, tear-stained, partially-fur-clad toddler and brought him up to the full-length mirror in the living room so he could see how cute he looked. Al had tried this same trick in the store when The Beaner had whined, and it did nothing to convince him of how cute he looked, so I didn't know why I thought it would work now. And of course it didn't, not least because The Beaner's eyes were shut so tightly against the horror that he couldn't see himself. Realizing that the suit wouldn't last long, I left Hannah to do the final stuffing and zipping and went to get the camera.
After taking these photos, I scooped up The Beaner and tried to calm him down. He felt incredibly hot, so I took him outside (where it was actually not a whole lot cooler; it'd been in the low 70s during the day), and we started walking towards Coxe Park, where there's usually an informal Halloween gathering every year. He stopped crying when we got outside; we were about halfway down the block when he gave me the most pleading little look and said quietly, "no Elmo." I kissed his cheek and said, "you want to take off the Elmo suit?" He nodded and whispered, "yeah." I took him back to the house and stripped him of the suit, and Al got him a cookie from the cupboard. "Too hot," he said, referring to the Elmo suit. I looked at Al and said, "want to try Alphaboy? He's already wearing rocket-covered pajama bottoms, which seem superhero-y; I can get a t-shirt, and we can pin some letters on it." Hannah also leapt into action: "I have some extra felt from our pumpkin mask project," she said, digging in her bag. I asked her to cut out a large letter A, and went to fetch The Beaner's Red Sox t-shirt (it's navy, and worked well with the pjs when turned inside out). Al went in search of safety pins.
The Beaner started to wail again when I attempted to pin the lovely letter A Hannah had cut out to the front of his shirt, and he persisted in trying to tug it off. I didn't want him to rip his Red Sox shirt, so I said not to worry, I'd take it off. Then, when his back was turned and his attention was focused on his cookie, I quickly pinned the letter to the tag of his shirt. He felt me tugging on him and started to scream, but we distracted him with his Thomas trains, and I got away with the pinning.
Al then took The Beaner down to Coxe Park (where the festivities mostly included adults drinking beer and wine and kids running around in costumes), followed by trick-or-treating. The Beaner had been practicing saying "trick or treat" all day, but it turned out his "happy Halloween!", which we hadn't practiced, was much clearer. I sat out on the front stoop handing out candy (where I was joined by my next door neighbor, Olga) while Al and The Beaner went up and down the street; they rejoined me after only about 20 minutes, when The Beaner's pail filled up. (I had Al bring all the candy in the pail to work with him the next day. The Beaner doesn't need to know that Halloween candy lasts for weeks; as far as he's concerned, it's the one night of the year you can eat two pieces of candy IN A ROW, and then it's over.)
We hung out on the front stoop together for quite a while, and then I took the Canon down the street with me to get some shots of various beautifully-carved jack o' lanterns. When I returned, Olga's husband Greg had joined Al, The Beaner, and Olga on the stoop, and as I walked up Greg plopped his witch's hat on The Beaner's head. The Beaner is no fan of hats in general (not even on other people), but he LOVED this one. Unfortunately the shot I took of him with a GIANT grin on his face is out of focus; in the dark, I didn't notice that the Canon had locked on the door handle behind him rather than on The Beaner's face. Fart. I did get a few more almost-as-cute photos of him in the hat, tho.
I don't know whether it was the magic of the hat or just the thrill of dropping/throwing items into a receptacle, but after donning the hat The Beaner joined in the candy distribution with gusto. At this point in the evening most of our trick-or-treaters were adults and teenagers, so the photos I took of The Beaner handing out candy seem like some sort of weird parody. Kinda like a greeting card with a photo of toddlers dressed up in wedding attire on it.
So anyway, despite the costume drama, we had a lovely Halloween. The warmish weather made it pleasant to sit outside and chat with our neighbors while handing out candy; The Beaner had a good time socializing and sucking on Tootsie pops; and the three of us got to go inside and eat homemade potato-leek soup together at the still-early hour of 7:15 when all the carousing was over. I'm already trying to think of costume ideas (for me!) for next year.