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Our First Halloween in the UK

Turning over a new leaf. When you move to another country, you are knee deep in a pile of a "new leaves" and often times your best move is just to chuck them over your head, kindergarten style, as high as you can. You'll sift through them, little by little, as they fall and hit you in the face. Every. Single. Day. It requires you to rethink, reevaluate and rework how you do,

I am an admitted Type A personality, sometimes a recovering Type A personality. I thrive on order, organization and preparation. My days are a steady battle rhythm to keep everyone clean, fed and happy. There is no thrill like meeting the needs of my family especially when they have not yet realized their own needs. Example: I can see Zac's eyes start to glaze over and I know he needs the trifecta: caffeine, food and rest. This is when I pull a protein bar out of thin air, find a coffee stop on the GPS and take over parenting. It's magic. I am like a one woman convenient store and my family has zero clue how many places I have stashed emergency supplies. Preparation breeds success in my book. If you see a smiling face in a family photo, I washed that face, fed that face and got that face to get in the picture. Did I say I love preparation?

I was not prepared for our first Halloween in England.

After arriving home, unpacking, washing heaps of muddy laundry, and restocking our food supplies I realized that Halloween was less than 24 hours away and I had done virtually nothing. My kids had no costumes, I had no treat bags, we had carved no pumpkin and word on our street was that a scarecrow must be made for the holiday. I had not scarecrow either. After I put the kids to bed, I poured a stiff Gin & Tonic and sat on my living room floor trying to think of how to get it all done. To add to the chaos in my mind, Zac and Avah were taking part in a paint ball game early in the morning which required me sifting through old clothes that could be warm, and yet disposable. This whole unprepared situation felt so out of character for me. And really, I couldn't pull out any of my old tricks because half of my supplies are in a storage unit somewhere in California, and there is not Dollar Tree in sight. Let's all give a little thanks to the Dollar Tree, making dreams come true one dollar at a time. Here I am, our first big holiday in the UK, and I'm sucking eggs. I say to myself, Baileigh, get it together, make a list and knock it out. I go to bed with visions of crying kids and a disappointed husband, which is my worst nightmare.

I get up early morning Halloween to make gourmet coffee, get in a work out and prepare myself for battle. On my list: I need to go to retrieve a large pumpkin for carving, Halloween costumes for the kids, ingredients for chili and chocolate chip cookies, as well as supplies for a scarecrow. (Whatever those are, I will use google super powers for that one.) Right after I pitch a fun-filled day of shopping in Halloween headbands to Asher and Arden, affectionately known as, "little and middle," I load them in the Mini and we take off. They think this is going to be a blast. Little do they know, it's going to be HELL. After getting to the largest Sainsbury's there is, I search the parking lot for a buggy. No deal. This means the place is probably packed with a lock-down looming and so I have to track down a nice gentleman to see if there is some place to get more carts. I say, "Sir, are there any more carts?" He looks at me like I swallowed a goat. "Um, yer lookin' for a cart?" Yes, yes, why is this a tough one? I say, "Yes, Sir." He looks around like he needs back up but there is none. "Um, what are you buying miss?" I say, "Um, the usual? Groceries, a pumpkin?" He says "So nothing big?" I'm drowning here. "Um, I mean I'd like a decent size pumpkin?" Then it hits me. "Oh wait, I need what you call a TROLLEY." He smirks because he now realizes that I do not need a large industrial moving cart, I just need the usual shopping cart. He says, "Yep, you are going to have to chase one of those down Miss." Sainsburys-1, Baileigh- 0.

After stalking people leaving and getting a trolley, I head into the store and I am ELATED to see all the costumes are half off. You know, there may be something to this whole unprepared thing. You get some deals when you procrastinate! As I peruse the Halloween candy and grab enough to make sizable goody bags for all the neighborhood kids, Asher and Arden tail me waiting patiently for the fun to start. Little do they know, I am about to pull a bunny out of a hat, and do something so out of character for me it is going to go down in history. In my former life, I made all my kid's Halloween costumes. I am talking, sewing, glueing, dying as well as planning every costume so that we make for cohesive family theme. Zac was once Prince Eric just to make me happy. So the fact that I am in the grocery store at 10 am on Halloween, is like a case of the body snatchers, none of my good friends would recognize me. I laugh to myself. I say to my kids, "lets go upstairs and look at the costumes." They light up. When we reach the top of the stairs I get down on their level and in a soft voice I say to them, "My little loves, you go pick WHATEVER costume you want." They look at me with wild eyes that read, "Mom has lost her shit." I say, "go on! You have 15 minutes!" As they walk away I see Arden lean down to Asher and I hear her say, "Ashee, Momma is really relaxed here." Yahtzee, I just made the grocery store fun.

Sainsburys -1, Baileigh-1

After picking a Harry Potter for Avah, Sleeping Beauty for Arden, we struggled to get Asher to decide. He eventually settles on a costume that says, "Stick Man" on the tag. I have no clue who this is. It has to be some book character but I'm at a loss and I feign excitement at his choice. Breathe Baileigh, who cares. In summary, I have a princess with narcolepsy, a run-of-the-mill wizard and a stick. I'm adding whiskey to my mental grocery store list. Before we leave the costume section I see a Jack Skellington costume and think, hmmmm, scarecrow remix? I love Nightmare Before Christmas even though my kids have never been allowed to watch it. Oh well, in the trolley it goes. We are time poor today. We get to the check out after an hour and half of shopping and waiting in lines. As the woman begins ringing me up we start chatting about everything from the lock down to American food. I notice all the costumes are full price, so I stop her and say, "those can't be right, it says they are all half-off." She says, "let me grab a manager to help." A lady comes over looking exasperated and miffed. She says in no uncertain terms, "NOPE, we have to go by what it rings up as, and it's ringing up full price, you can go to customer service." Awesome, maybe it doesn't pay to fly by the seat of your pants. Looks like I am going to have to get in yet another line to get this sorted. I pay for everything else and then go clear across the store to customer service. I wait in line and suddenly when I reach the teller window it is none other than the SAME lady at the register that just told me no. I start to laugh. "Maim, I just saw you, are you customer service too?" She yes, "YEP." This lady is really to the point. I am still going to plead my case as I feel I have a viable leg to stand on. I show her the sign, show her all of my costumes and ask her if there is anyone who can help me. The woman of one word answers suddenly gets loquacious. "Maim, these are not Halloween costumes, these are just dress up so they are not included in the sale." I'm not even going to say what four letter expletives bounced around in my brain. This really cannot be happening. I clap back, "Listen, I know I am not from here, but you really want me to believe that these "dress up" clothes just HAPPEN to be out at Halloween but they are just dress up? Jack Skellington? He's just an every day dress up option? Maim, you know this classic false advertisement. Is this dress up section going to be here in December too?" The lady is looking back at me through her clear window and I can see, this juice isn't worth my squeeze, I can see my kids in the refection and they are nervous this day is about to tank. I hand the lady my card and she rings up the full price costumes. This ill prepared stuff is for the birds. Sainsburys-2, Baileigh-1

On the way home, Zac calls to say they are also on their way home. He pokes me for the plan for Halloween. I proceed to tell him the litany of tasks that all need to be finished before 6:00pm and he goes into full on "jedi-wife-mind-trick-mode." This is when Zac's voice gets both higher, slower, and softer. It's his newest trick. Like he is trying to coax me into a cage so he can drop the door down behind me, to keep me in there until I can better decipher my stress to calm down. He uses lots of terms of endearment and he gives me lots of compliments. He says, "Love, let's not stress. You make every holiday special and this will be no different. Babe, I know you want to go get a bigger pumpkin, but let's just cut the small one on the front porch so you don't have to hunt anymore. And I'll just rake up the leaves in the backyard to build the scarecrow, we don't need straw. It will be fine. Let's all get home and regroup." As I listen to him, zipping down the road in my red mini I'm starting to feel like this is all my fault. If I had been my usual self, he would be coming home to simmering chili, warm cookies and a carved pumpkin. I blew this. His being nice to me is only making me feel more like a donkey.

We get home and my kids retelling of their fun-filled day at the grocery store, when mom told the lady off, makes my heart ease. They think I won that battle, when really the final score was Sainsbury's-2, Baileigh-1. Zac stops me in my tracks, takes me by my shoulders, looks me in the face, and tells me we will get it done. Just about that time Avah bounds in recounting all the fun she had at paintball and then, without any words, she starts taking out all the ingredients and cook ware to make chili and cookies. She quickly gets to work asking me for cooking guidance ever so often. After setting down a drop cloth and turning on Halloween music, I ask Little and Middle to help clean out our little pumpkin. Inspired by our scarecrow, I carve a pumpkin to match Jack's face. I think it will look really cool if we can get our scarecrow to hold it up like a head. Speaking of scarecrow, after leaves are raked and Jack Skellington is stuffed, Zac does what he always does... he goes clear over the top of any average expectation. Suddenly, there are lights, pyrotechnics, and a scary playlist to go with our Jack Scarecrow. Which then of course, leads to me slicing and dicing Amazon boxes to fashion a ghoulish looking sign for our scene. By 5:00 chili is simmering, cookies are done, candy bags are made, a scarecrow with a pumpkin has been procured and costumes are laid out and ready for trick-or-treating. I shower and put on my finest spice girl ensemble. "I tell ya what I want, what I really really want." At this point, I cannot ask for much more Ginger Spice, it all came together just in time.

Halloween night included a sweet and simple trick-or-treat route within the Baconsmead neighborhood. Our kids skipped home with candy bags over flowing after only 20 minutes of racing from house to house. Zac had the time of his life scaring all those that stopped at our porch to see Jack Scarecrow. After arriving home, we got out of costume, ate chili and cozied up for my favorite classic, "Hocus Pocus." I slowly sipped a whiskey while the kids counted, and ate their candy.

After I wrote this I decided to take the time to look up the meaning of "turning over a new leaf." It goes like this:

To act or behave in a better way.

Well, so I guess I took a few new leaves to the face. But I think, if I am honest, it made me better in a few ways. Nobody cared, or really noticed that I was shooting from the hip. In the absence of my arsenal of organization, my entire crew stepped up to fill in the gaps without me having to ask. The minute I let go of being perfect, I found that had it all gone perfectly to plan, it would have been rather boring. Am I right? I am positive that the kids are all going to remember the Halloween we did in a day. So am I going to make a habit of procrastination? No, probably not, because that isn't who I am. BUT, I will not be so focused on perfection. I will behave better, plan a few things but also just enjoy the here and now. Finding that balance between the two is where I am going to win no matter what the scoreboard reads. (Kiss my grits Sainsburys.)

I hope you all had a Happy Halloween! We are officially in Part 2 Lock Down . Expect many more posts.

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