On a normal Halloween, we just get dressed up and depend on NYC to do all the work for us. This year, due to fear of crowds and contact with strangers, we had to make the Halloween fun happen on our own. Parents everywhere were forced to get creative, and dare I say it? Our Halloween was BETTER THAN NORMAL. First time I can say that about anything in 2020.

The weekend started on Halloween Eve with a rooftop candy hunt after school at my friend’s apartment. There were Swedish Fish, Sour Patch Kids and Kit Kats hiding in potted plants and under loose bricks, with NYC as the perfect backdrop. It was just Harlow and her friend Harriet, but we hid so much candy to prolong the activity, that the kids started to question our parental judgement. At one point Harlow shouted, “WHAT ABOUT DENTAL HEALTH?!” 

Yep, I guess we threw that out the window in 2020 too.

That night, we drove out to the house, where I had even bigger plans. On Saturday morning, Harlow started off the day with rotten Halloween pancakes, by adding orange food coloring and a plethora of black sprinkles to her famous recipe. They tasted a little crunchy.

Then the girls dressed up in their costumes. They went as students at Hogwarts; just representing the houses with no character in particular.

Harlow is in Ravenclaw and Mazzy is in Slytherin (based on some online test), so… of course, we knew who needed to be in Gryffindor. I couldn’t believe Frankie sat still while balancing those glasses on her nose.

Then we sent the kids to Lucy’s house to hang with the dads, while the moms gathered at my house to get ready for the big night. I didn’t do a family costume this year; just picked through old costumes and focused on decorating the house. The plan was to have a little Halloween party at our place, with our original pandemic bubble of three families. It was the first time any of our kids spent Halloween outside of NYC, so we wanted to make it special.

After decorating the downstairs with assorted bats, black fabric, skeletons, cobwebs and baubles, we went to work upstairs.

We transformed the entire the second floor into a haunted house for indoor trick or treating with different themed rooms, with the most emphasis on decorating the doors.

Aura transformed her door into a Hogwarts dorm room.

Lucy turned her door into something we will call— Dead Fish Alley.

I turned my room into a witch’s den, complete with floating witch hats and a levitating cauldron of fingers and eyeballs.

Then Lucy’s husband Eric turned the attic into a disco dance party. We also set up a candy ghost hunt outside, by sticking candy and a little LED light in white napkins and hiding about 60 of them all around the backyard.

This was me last night, waiting for our party to start.

When the kids arrived, I think they were pretty surprised by how much we had done to the house in a few short hours.

We started out the night with a pumpkin craft downstairs. Nobody was allowed to go upstairs until it was time.

We weren’t sure if we were going to let the kids go trick or treating this year, but once other kids started arriving at our house (we had candy outside for them to take), we let them go for it.

They’ve never gone trick or treating in the ‘burbs before and it was so fun to see them run from house to house as the sun went down, not knowing whether they would find candy there or not. In the city, it’s more of a free for all. Tons of people, costumes and decorations everywhere, which is why we opted out this year. At the house, there were a few small groups of kids roaming around the neighborhood.

The houses were not super decorated, but almost every house had candy on their front porch. This is the Halloween I remember as a kid and I’m glad Mazzy and Harlow got to experience it.

Everything that happened next happened after dark, so the pics going forward are not going to do it all justice. You’ll have better luck watching my Halloween story highlight on Instagram. It was pitch black for the candy hunt so all the kids took flashlights. The LED lights were glowing but tiny, some up in the trees, or under pots in the garden, others glowing underneath piles of leaves or up in the swing set, so it ended up being a perfect search— hard but not too hard. The best part was that towards the end of the search, we got the dads to dress up as ghosts and scare the crap out of the kids. The whole key to a good scare is waiting until the hunt is almost over before the ghost suddenly appears, so the kids are caught completely off guard! The screams were glorious.

I also have to mention one legitimate scare. After the candy hunt was over, Harlow told me she lost her wand in the yard. Lucy and I went out in the pitch dark to find it, and after a full ten minutes of searching, all of sudden Eric emerged from the bushes, screaming in a fully black shadow suit. I almost peed myself.

Another great idea was saving our indoor trick or treating until the end of the night, so just when the kids thought all the fun was over, we revealed literally a whole other level of Halloween upstairs. We didn’t let anyone go up there until it was time. I was even surprised to see how great it all looked after dark. Check out my witch’s den!

The night ended with a disco dance party in the attic, complete with a strobe light, disco ball and fog machine. The kids absolutely loved it and even the older kids were so impressed with how much effort the adults put into everything.

The night ended with copious amounts of alcohol for the adults and candy trading for the kids. The plan was to watch a scary movie, but everyone was having so much fun, we just kept the party going.

I need to thank everyone in these photos for this amazing evening. It was a joint effort from all the parents and I had as much joy putting it all together with some of my dearest friends, as I had watching our kids experience it from start to finish.

Looking back through my camera roll, I’m kinda shocked at how little I captured. But I guess that’s the true testament of a good time. The kids will remember this Halloween for a long time. And the adults REALLY NEEDED IT.

I’ll be curious to see where the girls want to spend Halloween next year!