Saturday, October 31, 2009

Spooky in Southwest ND

Whew! I'm exhausted. Our Halloween was chock-full of activity. This morning I got some work done for school, and Susan got some work done for church (as Sunday school director, she was in charge of setting up for one of this afternoon's events at church; more on that in a bit). Then we joined the university president and his wife for a brunch at the Student Center on campus: an indoor tailgating event before the football game in the afternoon. Mrs. McCallum has been arranging these events throughout the fall and inviting various groups of people to each one to mingle with one another, visit with her and her husband, and enjoy the goodwill, school spirit, and delicious food. Early in the week before each pre-football brunch, she invites various people to taste-test all the menu items that she's considering for that weekend, and I was invited to one of those brunches to sample and recommend (remember?). Now, a few weeks later, I got invited to the weekend event itself!

Some other university faculty and staff were there, too, as were selected members of the community. We enjoyed visiting, of course, and Susan found the president and his wife to be very hospitable; but mostly we were all about the food. We started with appetizers: smoked salmon on garlic toast rounds with all the fixin's for lox (cream cheese, capers, red onions); quesadillas and salsa; sweet-'n'-sour meatballs; and deep-fried chicken nuggets and ranch dressing. Then the buffet line: pasta salad; potato salad; a variety of cheeses with a variety of crackers; bread bowls to fill with our choice of beef stew, cream of broccoli soup, or hearty chicken noodle soup; two egg bakes, one with meat and one vegetarian; and sour-dough buns, mustard, and mayo to make sandwiches out of the garlic-crusted roast beef and roast pork that was being sliced at the end of the buffet line. Then dessert: frosted sugar cookies decorated like pumpkins; slices of dessert breads (banana bread, cranberry bread, etc.); a huge slices of cheese cake. It was just delicious.

Then we headed home so that Susan could help the girls with their costumes. Our church has a "fall festival" each Halloween to which children come in their costumes and eat snacks and play games that are more Bible-themed and less monster-themed. Arranging that is one of Susan's duties as Sunday school director, so in addition to getting games and supplies and food ready over the past few days and this morning, she also had to be at church before the festival began to set up and had to stay late to clean up. So I took the girls to church when it was time and snapped some pics of them in their costumes there:

Suzanna dressed up as a grandma. She borrowed the walker from a friend, donned sensible hose and an '80s dress (complete with shoulder pads), packed her purse with facial tissue and cough drops (I suggested that she toss in some Bengay and a plastic rain bonnet, too), attached an eyeglasses chain to her spectacles, and wore curlers to bed last night and sprayed her hair gray today. She shuffled around a lot and used a pinched voice to give the other children grandmotherly lectures about not eating so much candy, being careful with their costumes pieces (e.g., "You could put an eye out with that sword"), and so on. Yep, she was truly "in character."

Abigail dressed up as a professional dancer from Dancing with the Stars, which we enjoy watching as a family and on which Abigail enjoys daydreaming about appearing someday. The pink jazz dress is from a past dance recital; it has glittery beads all over it. She matched it with glittery silver shoes that she bought for a quarter at a rummage sale last summer. (The white tights and long white sleeves aren't realistic considering all the skin shown by the professional dancers on the TV show, but they're more sensible for trick-or-treating in ND.) She wore curlers to bed, too, last night and had Mommy fix her hair in a super-fancy 'do. Her glamorous makeup includes glitter on her face and in her hair. I suppose that she was "in character," too, striking a pose at the drop of a hat, spinning around in impromptu dance routines, etc.--but that's really just Abigail, Halloween costume or not.

Hillary dressed up as a queen bee. She, too, made use of an old dance recital dress, pairing it with outdoor-trick-or-treat-friendly black tights and a long-sleeved shirt for the black-and-yellow bumblebee look. The fairy wings suggest bee wings, and the tiara (pink feathers and all) suggests her royalty. Thus, people who guessed that she was a fairy were first corrected that she was a queen bee; and then when they nodded and said something like, "Oh, yes, I see it now: a bumblebee!" they were again corrected: not just "a bee" but "the queen bee." Yep, Hillary, too, was both "in character" and perfectly herself.

Susan got in the spirit, too, donning kitty-cat ears and a tail (which she's holding in her left hand) for her afternoon with the children at the fall festival.

At the end of the fall festival, I took the girls and one of their friends around town to trick-or-treat. We hit the houses of their school teachers. Then we went to "Malloween" at the Prairie Hills Mall. Almost every store had employees in Halloween costumes sitting out front with buckets of candy so that children in their own costumes could go from store to store trick-or-treating indoors. It's ideal if you have little kids whom it's a hassle to haul around town; if the weather is cold; or if you like seeing other kids' costumes because they're all on parade as the kids tromp from store to store throughout the mall.

Then we went to "Treat Street" held at Days Hotel Grand Dakota Lodge and Convention Center. Various businesses rent suites there and decorate them according to various themes, stocking them with in-costume people to hand out candy and hide in the dark corners of the rooms and leap out screaming to scare the trick-or-treaters! The line just to get in snaked out the lobby doors, down the parking lot, and around two sides of the building! Thanks goodness the weather was just beautiful--no coats necessary. Inside there were lots of awesomely spooky lights and lit-up monsters and eerie music, and there were cobwebs and black lights and scratchy streamers and mummies and all sorts of creepy stuff in the hallways and each room. Hillary held onto my hand pretty tightly; and people in some of the rooms, seeing a young child entering, called out to their cohorts not to scare our group. When one monster leaped out of the darkness to scare Suzanna, she turned to him and, in character, held out a finger and said, "Stop that!" And he did! Hilarious.

Then we dropped off the girls' friend at her home and went trick-or-treating at our relatives' homes. Susan's uncle Terry and aunt Audrey were at their son Robbie's high school football game, but their daughter Christy happened to be at the house with her kids to let us in and give the girls some candy. We stopped at Susan's other in-town cousins' homes, too, but they must have been out and about with their own kids. We found Susan's aunt Mary and uncle Dale at home and made that our last stop before parking at home and hitting the streets to canvas our own neighborhood. One neighbor across the street always has special treat packages ready for the girls, and we made sure to stop at the homes of all the other neighbors whose lights were still on--including Chuck and Reba's house with its fog machine on the front step going off intermittently and creating an eerie haze on the block!

We didn't get home and sit down to eat supper until about 8:00 P.M.! We were very hungry for the mummies (hot dogs wrapped in crescent rolls and baked), the bones in gore (French fries covered in chili and cheese), and the buttered bug eyes (green peas) that Susan had prepared. She had also roasted the pumpkin seeds from Thursday night's jack-o'-lantern carving spree. Once the traffic at our front door had stopped, we went for a walk around the neighborhood to enjoy the beautiful weather and work off some of the calories from all the Halloween candy. Tonight: the girls and I are having a slumber party in the family room. (I have been spooking them with stories about all the goblins that are out tonight, so none of them wants to spend the night in her own room, wondering what this or that noise outdoors actually is.) After about six hours of trick-or-treating, they're ready to sleep . . . and so am I.

Susan's cousin Todd and his wife Trista stopped by with their son Trae in his cowboy gear, and Susan just had to snap a picture for us to see once we returned. Howdy, pardner!

Remember the girls' pumpkin carving the other night? Here's what the jack-o'-lanterns looked like tonight on our front step. Spooky, no?