Homemade Halloween

Happy Day after Halloween everyone! How’s your blood sugar level? I’m feeling the need to check in on you all after a Halloween that lasted three whole days. Are you upright? Did the kids make it?

This week’s column is a reflection on my Homemade Halloweens, and this year we carried on the tradition successfully, although I was a little nervous when I wrote the column that my five-year-old was going to reject the homemade and head toward her rack of princess dresses. But alas, she proved that she has a soft and gooey center and dressed up as Bluey, the star of her little sister’s favorite show, making Rosie’s dreams come true and her momma proud and thankful that I didn’t get out the glue gun for nothing.

So here’s the thing about having Halloween officially land on a Sunday–not only does it make for a three day celebration, it means that I had a whole day and a half to thoroughly obsess over my Trunk-or-Treat display. Because when I was a kid, Trunk-or-Treat didn’t exist. But oh, it exists now and I. Am. Here. For. It.

So the girls and I spent Saturday night and Sunday morning turning the back of my car into a campsite. We painted signs and mountains, brought up the sleeping bags and Teepee and old time lantern, took out the fishing poles, gathered sticks and cut up paper to make a fake fire and fully and completely destroyed our kitchen in the process. And then we loaded it all up to head down the road to figure out how to coordinate our Bluey Family costumes with our winter gear. Because weather’s never really stopped North Dakotan’s from doing our best to celebrate something. And so we celebrated, in 70-some degree weather on Friday on Main Street and 30-some degree weather on Sunday handing out candy from my lawn chair and “fishing hole.” the fishing hole.

The girls and I went all out on our Trunk or Treat Theme this year. My kitchen is covered in paint and crafting supplies, and I had to take a half-hour shower to thaw out from sitting in 30-some degree weather handing out the chocolate, but it was worth it.

I hope you all enjoyed this fun holiday the way you prefer to enjoy it–eating all the candy, entering the costume contest, playing tricks on the neighborhood kids, or shutting the lights off and hiding out–because if there was ever a holiday that screams “you do you” it’s All Hallow’s Eve.

Ok, here’s this week’s column.

Another Homemade Halloween

If you don’t watch Bluey with your kids, you should. An adorable Aussie show featuring a family of Heelers. They have two little girls, Blue and Bingo, and two little girl cousins, Muffin and Socks, and I feel like it’s our life on the ranch as a cartoon.

By the time you read this, I will have successfully consumed all of the chewy SweeTarts, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Milk Duds I purchased for Halloween, proving yet again that I can’t be trusted to buy any candy early, unless I somehow hide it from myself, which would mean I won’t find it until they clean my house to move me into the nursing home.

By the time you read this, I will have hot-glued some felt to a couple bright sweatshirts (and added puffy paint just for fun) in an attempt to create a costume you can’t find in stores, only to learn that my oldest would now rather be Elena, Princess of Avalor than Bluey, a cartoon blue heeler puppy made out of a hoodie.

I’m not sure I have enough hot glue sticks, felt or glitter in the house to construct a full-on ballgown, not that I won’t try. Edie’s too young to understand that I will, indeed, try.

Because her father and I come from a long line of “make your own costume” people. Walmart wasn’t just down the street, you know. Oh, and money didn’t grow on trees then either. And uphill both ways, and all that stuff that will send my daughters’ eyeballs rolling.

Anyway, did anyone else’s mom stuff you in one of those pumpkin leaf bags, paint your face green and call it a costume? How about a princess in one of her old bridesmaid’s dresses with a pipe cleaner crown? No.

Halloween in the early 90s. My little sister as a garbage bag pumpkin and me as an old lady in my grandma’s dress.

Well, then there was always the one clown suit our grandma made that we could get from the cousins down in South Dakota who wore it last year, trying to decide if it’s best to wear the snowsuit over or under the baggy striped and polka-dotted jumper. Then we all crammed in the neighbors’ pickup with the tiny seat in the back and covered the 15-mile radius from neighbor to neighbor to neighbor, stripping off our beanies, coats, mittens and snowpants to reveal our characters and sit and have a cup of hot chocolate or a cookie before heading to the next house.

Trying to incorporate my broken leg into my costume

I was a full-blown adult before I ever dressed in a store-bought costume — I was a deviled egg, and I borrowed it from my little sister. We still have it if you want to borrow it, too, along with some wigs, a couple witch hats and a child’s flamingo costume we acquired along the way.

Me and my husband, as full grown adults…in homemade costumes…

We love Halloween around here, but it’s such a different time. Since my oldest daughter was born, we’ve collected enough princess, mermaid, Wonder Woman, Batgirl, Supergirl, cheerleader and ballerina costumes, complete with the plastic high heels, crowns and capes to play dress-up or trick or treat every day for a month.

But when Halloween comes knocking on our door, I get that old familiar urge to construct something. One year, I hot-glued hundreds of colorful puffballs on a beanie and made 11-month-old Edie into a gumball machine.

The next year I ordered as much harvest-colored tulle I could find and spent two days making a giant tutu for a cute little scarecrow and my daughter took one look at it and cried. Apparently it wasn’t pink and sparkly enough for the 2-year-old.

Recycling the idea on Rosie a few years later

But that didn’t stop me from whipping out that glue gun the next year to create an epic mermaid crown out of old costume necklaces and beach shells and turning a little sweat suit into a flounder fish for baby Rosie. Because I have to glue while I can! I knew that the days of my daughters appreciating my homemade efforts were going to be short-lived.

I didn’t know that the timeline would be so short. Apparently almost 6 is when your daughter turns to you out of the blue and asks you, very frankly, to not embarrass her.

And I’m not sure what qualifies as embarrassing to a 6-year-old, but apparently I’ve done it. A few times actually.

If you need me, I’ll be drowning my sorrows in Reese’s and bedazzling something.

Making the costume, making the memories


Ok, so Halloween is just around the corner. My daughter will turn 2 in a little over a month and a few weeks after that (if not before…) we’ll welcome a new family member into our house and our home and our hearts.

And so, as you probably guessed, I’m feeling a little panicky at this point. There’s not much time left to get my office cleaned out and made into a proper baby’s room or make the “plan ahead” schedule for the work that needs to continue to move forward while I’m in my post-baby fog. Running my own business means I don’t technically get maternity leave, so it’s up to me to get prepared if I want some time off. So far I’m not prepared.

At all.

But I could be working on being prepared, except there’s too many other fun things to do, like hit up the pumpkin patch in the big town this weekend, force Edie out of her prairie dress and into one I’ve had in the closet for six months and make her pose for her “almost” two year-old photos and, of course, most important of all, get to working on her Halloween costume.

Which is what I did a few weeks ago when she was at her Nana and Papa’s (instead of working on the office/baby’s room like I planned.) I found this adorable idea online and ordered the supplies and sat in front of Netflix and got to work.


Buy this costume from lauriestutuboutique on Etsy. Or try to make it like the fool I am…

When the tutu was done I was so excited at its poof and fluff and pretty certain my frilly daughter would find it suitable and wonderful and whimsical just like I imagined. I couldn’t wait to show it to her, to try it on and finish up adjusting the straps before hanging it in the closet to await the big day of Trick-or-Treating. I could just envision her delighted smile and giggle. I felt like Martha Stewert and super-mom and the winner of Project Runway all combined into one emotional, pregnant mess.

And then she got home and crushed my dreams. One look at the brown, orange and yellow tutu sent my toddler into a physical reaction of distaste and disgust. And then, because she’s a good talker, she followed up the sour look on her face with the following words, spoken as she pushed the homemade costume away from her before turning her head

“Don’t like it. That dress is gross.”

Cue a mother’s heart breaking in half. I had to go into my messy office/baby’s room, papers and baby decor scattered from wall to wall, and sit with my failure, my unnecessary hormonal tears and the “gross” tutu I had created for my baby who clearly isn’t a baby anymore.

She followed me in there then, and with the same disgust on her face, removed the tutu from the bed, placing it outside the door and out of her line of sight, and then climbed up beside me.

“Mommy cry? Don’t cry mommy,” she said as she leaned into my shoulder. And that made me laugh and shake my head, realizing I was watching a strong, independent girl who knows what she wants develop right before my eyes.

But what Edie doesn’t know is that I’m a strong, independent girl myself and I am working on ways to win this battle, the same way I won the battle of the dress this morning and managed to get her to smile for the camera in that adorable denim frock just the way I envisioned, dammit. It took an hour, some tears and a gramma intervention, but it happened.

I won.

This time anyway.

I’ll keep you updated on the Halloween costume situation. But if she’s going as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz this year, it’s because we just might be able to pass the dress she’s currently obsessed with off as a costume, all it needs is some ruby slippers, a basket and a Toto.


Happy costuming parents and friends. Enjoy this “From the Editor” piece for this month’s Prairie Parent, where I explain why I even try. And while you’re there, read more from our amazing contributors on traditions and why they matter in our families.



Making the costume, making the memories
Prairie Parent, From the Editor
October 2017


Baby gumball on the town.


So as promised, here is the result of my last minute Halloween costume crafting debacle.


I think we pulled it off, even if I had to explain it to a few people, and even if she was mistaken for a little boy wearing a colorful helmet while we were trick-or-treating.


But I personally see a strong resemblance to the real thing, don’t you?


It was, as I planned, a fashionable as well as functional costume, given the chilly weather that evening. And she owned that costume, really committed to it by keeping her gumball hat on all night.

She surprised me.

And, in true Edie fashion, she loved the chaos of the evening. We visited grampa at his office, made a stop at a friend’s work, walked with cousin S around to area businesses as part of our town’s Trail of Treats and then hung out at mom’s store so we could see all the cute costumes as they came in for candy, which has become one of my favorite traditions.

There are so many young kids in this town it blows my mind every year. My husband remembers trick-0r-treating on Main Street with about a handful of other kids when he was growing up, now there are hundreds and hundreds of cupcakes and Ninja Turtles, inflatable dinosaurs, princesses, zombies and witches. The girls at mom’s store had to go down the street for more candy multiple times to keep up. It really is incredible to see, especially when you remember a time when we were closing down country schools and worried about enrollment. It wasn’t so long ago.

Anyway, this is how a gumball machine hits the town.


And this is how she looks on donuts and sugar…


After we had supper in town, where Edie spent her time staring at the cute server and trying to steal the pens out of her apron,  I had good intentions of stopping by neighbors’ on the way home, but it was over. We were tired.

But it was pretty clear that our definition of fun has completely changed since she came along, and although we were ready for it, I didn’t realize just how great something as simple as spending Halloween with my baby could be.

We got home and watched her wind down and play on the floor a bit, stripped her out of her sparkly pants, washed her up and put her down in her crip to sing herself to sleep as another little milestone, another 1st, was put in the books.

I can’t help thinking, especially after good days like those, that it has all been so worth the wait.

So very worth the wait.


Passing the Halloween torch


It’s Halloween. And true to my nature I stayed up late last night gluing Edie’s gumball  machine costume together and cursing myself for waiting until the last minute, because, EEEK! I ran out of little pom-poms and I live a good hour and a half from the nearest 24 hour Walmart.


Why couldn’t I just order her a costume from Amazon.com for crying out loud?

Why? Because it looked like an adorable and easy idea a month ago when I found it.

And I think I like to make stuff. Even if I procrastinate the shit out of the process.

Halloween has been one of my favorite holidays because of those two things, because I rarely make plan until the last minute and apparently I like the thrill of creativity under pressure.

Some of my best work has come a good hour or two before our last minute plan to attend a Halloween party.

White Trash.

Bacon and Eggs/Before and After


But it’s been a few years since we’ve hit up a bender of a Halloween party. Last year I could have gone as a blimp and I wouldn’t have needed a costume.

This year I spent the weekend obsessing over staining the house. And in case you’re wondering, it didn’t go well. I mean, #1:  Who in their right minds designs a house that needs to be re-stained every few years? And #2: Who makes that house so tall even their tallest ladder can’t reach the top?

It’s a Halloween worthy nightmare that will last our entire lives. (Or at least until we make enough money to buy ourselves out of DIYing…)


This is the short side of the house, so who needs a ladder?  I call it Redneck Renovation (Innovation?)

Anyway, I’ve never spent a Halloween with our baby, so I’m planning on doing what we can do for the holiday with an almost-one-year-old. I’ll find mom’s witch hat and we’ll head to town this afternoon to hang in her store and hand out candy. Then I’ll make the rounds, say hi to some neighbors, show her off and likely, spend most of my time putting the bubble gum hat back on her head.

Don’t worry, they’ll be pictures tomorrow, you know you can count on it:)

Oh, and if you don’t yet, follow me on Instagram for photos on life out here.

And because this baby and my Halloween crafting project makes me nostalgic, here’s this week’s column on the memories I have of trick-or-treating along the country roads.

Coming Home: Princess of the frozen tundra passes the Halloween torch
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications


I was a princess once.

It was a long time ago in a faraway, mysterious frozen tundra called North Dakota. I was beautiful. My crown was made of glittery pipe cleaner, my dress a hand-me-down from my fair mother, shoulder pads for dramatic effect, taken in at the waist with 37 safety pins, and it swept (drug) on the ground ever-so elegantly, collecting fallen leaves, dirty snow and candy wrappers the way every magnificent princess ballgown should.

I addressed my kingdom in a short, 1990s camcorder clip featuring a stunning and dramatic speech littered with impediments because I was a princess who couldn’t quite say my “R’s” correctly. And before I headed out the door to survey my territory, I pulled on my baby blue, puffy winter coat and well-worn snow boots, even though I fully intended on a mink shawl and glass slippers, because it was Halloween in North Dakota, and when it comes to parents, there are some arguments even a princess can’t win.

Yes, I was a princess once.

And then I was a clown in a hand-me-down, red and white, homemade zip-up suit and hat, complete with rosy cheeks.


And once I was Pippi Longstocking, and I made my braids stick straight out and wore my dad’s lace-up work boots. And long ago, I was a ghost with spiders in my hair, then an old woman in a lace dress taken from my great-grandmother,


and an alien with neon-green hair and a tinsel dress that my mom wore in a 1970s production of “The Wizard of Oz” in which she played the Tin Man.

Yes, ’tis the season for goblins and mermaids and 7,000 Ninja Turtles and “Frozen” characters to start gearing up for an evening of a make-believe parade down city sidewalks and doing the things that children do on a holiday that was invented to keep us young and full of imagination.

But my Halloween memories don’t include those sidewalks, because we didn’t have many on the miles of gravel roads connecting us to our “next-door neighbors.” Our trick-or-treating rituals looked more like dressing up in homemade costumes my best friend and I had been planning and perfecting for weeks, standing in front of dad’s deer horns hanging on the wall to pose for a photo next to my little sister who was dressed as a pumpkin and then piling into the minivan with the neighbor girls while our dads drove us through the 10-mile loop so we could unload and load up again at all seven houses.

One year my best friend went as a picnic table, to-scale and complete with at least two table settings, so you can about imagine how that car ride went.

But we didn’t care; you could have piled six more kids in that minivan, and we would have never wished for a sidewalk or streetlights. We were convinced us country kids had the best Halloweens. Because at that time, we were some of the few, we were special, and our neighbors were expecting us. So at each of those seven or so houses, we loaded up on handfuls of candy, treat bags complete with pencils or pinwheels, full-sized candy bars, bags of popcorn and a chance to take our time, show off some tricks and model our costumes, strutting and showing off what we worked so hard to put together.

And at the end of it all, we all we unloaded at the final house, dragging pieces of our costumes behind us, disheveled and tired and ready to dump our pillowcases full of treats on the carpet to sort through while our parents visited in the kitchen.

Today, in my kitchen, the supplies for Edie’s Halloween costume sit in a box on my countertop, and I just realized the torch has been officially passed as I turn from back-seat princess to minivan driver. But my friend up the road has four kids, so if we want to ride together like we did in the old days, we might need to see where we can get a small bus … especially if anyone plans on going as a picnic table this year.


This costume idea brought to you by breakfast.

Well, Halloween’s officially here, though we already celebrated the shit out of it last Saturday at a house party down the road.

This costume idea brought to you by Saturday’s breakfast.  It’s sort of an educational effort, a farm to plate demonstration if you will.

Just doing what we can to promote the agriculture industry, working hard to keep it as realistic as possible.

And, although it’s hard to believe, I’d like to tell you that not a stitch of sewing went into any of these creations. I mean, you wouldn’t guess it, the way those wings look like they could just take a floppy, chicken flight at any moment.

And that egg? Looks so edible, so delicious.

If there’s an award for a series of costumes put together entirely of staples, rubber cement and zip ties, I will gladly accept it.

Halloween. We take it pretty seriously around here.

So I’d really like to know who the hell spiked the punch?

Peace, Love, Bacon and a Happy Halloween!

Halloween in Boomtown

On a dark and kind of windy night a woman in fleece pants and an old FFA sweatshirt sat alone in her farm house in the middle of nowhere eating leftover noodle casserole, waiting for little munchkins dressed as goblins and witches to pile out of pickups and knock on her door while the news anchors on the TV told her stories she already knew about the bustling, busy, over-stretched and opportunity filled boomtown where she once went to school and now works.

As the sun disappeared over the clay buttes and the stars popped out one by one, she munched on a bite sized Snicker bar for dessert. Her Halloween costume from the weekend’s festivities still lay in a crumpled heap, a massacre of fuzzy pink flamingo in the corner of her tiny house. Two days later and she was still recovering from the celebration of one of her favorite holidays. Turns out pink flamingos can’t handle five beers and two shots in the matter of three hours.

“Sweet Martha”, the girl thought to herself as she unwrapped another piece of candy. “What happened to the good ‘ol days when coming down from a sugar high and planning your costume around the necessity of a snowsuit were your biggest worries on Halloween?”

Here I am, six years old in a clown costume my grandma made for us..

She contemplated this for a while, because she could. Because no little Lady Gagas were knocking on her door and her husband had left her here for a week alone to her own dinner plans…and she was already failing. It was day one and she had resorted to leftovers and candy. Yes, she had time to herself. Time that, in another life, would have been spent planning her Pippi Longstocking outfit with her best friend up the hill who would be putting the finishing touches on her  picnic table costume. They would have been loading up in the pickup with their little sisters in turtlenecks and scarves shoved into witch’s capes and stuffed garbage bags that looked like pumpkins. Twenty years ago she would have been visiting the neighbors who lived within a fifteen mile radius of her little house in the coulee. Twenty years ago she would have been thrilled to curl her tongue into three loops, or throw her body into a cartwheel, or recite a poem about a goblin with the Picnic Table for their neighbor down the highway. “A trick for a treat,” she would say as she clapped her hands together.

Twenty years ago she would have performed. She would have thought this out. They would have expected it, the girl and her Picnic Table friend.  Because the stakes were high out here surrounded by gravel roads, trees windswept and bare, dark, starry skies and howling coyotes. It was Halloween for the love of Butterfinger! Halloween in the country and, well, twenty years ago those girls didn’t mess around.

The neighbor girls...

No, it didn’t matter that there were only five stops, only five houses to visit on Halloween night.  That was of no concern. The girls didn’t know about sidewalks and knocking on doors and running wild through neighborhoods. The ribbon of pink road, the miles of fence posts, the grazing cattle, that was their neighborhood…and it would take them days to walk it (especially in her dad’s oversized boots and with all that silverware stuck to the giant cardboard box her friend was wearing.) So their dads would drive them down the road to farmhouses lit up with lanterns and pumpkins with faces. Houses that smelled like dinner on the stove when they drove in the yard. Houses where their friends lived. The same friends who rode the bus with them for an hour every day to get to school.

Yes, twenty years ago those best friends lived for this holiday–the planning, the creativity, the stories and  piling into the warm ranch pickup with their squishy little sisters, caramel apples, mom dressed as witches, dads dressed as monsters and, well, the treats…

Momma and Pops on Halloween

Ah, the treats. The woman in fleece pants opened a box of Nerds and closed her eyes…

First stop was the neighbors to the south who would have a bowl on their kitchen table filled with pre-packaged goodies for all of the girls: stickers, small games, skittles, candy corn, chocolate shaped as pumpkins and, on your way out grab a scotcharoo why don’t you.

Second stop a half a mile down the road: homemade popcorn balls in orange and green. Glow sticks, apple cider, and a PayDay for the road.

Third stop on the highway: Time to perform. A trick for a treat and a long visit with a retired teacher who loved them and gave them pencils and made them hot Tang and sugar cookies. And they loved her too…and knew better than to say anything about the prunes she placed in the middle of those sugar cookies.

Back to the gravel to finish off the night with caramel apples and a handful or two from the bowls at the doors and then on to the Picnic Table’s house to dump out pillowcases full of treats and trade and sort and count.

A sad clown with a broken leg. Yes, I was accident prone even as a fifth grader...

The woman tilted her head back to finish off the Nerds and then got up off of the chair to take a peek outside.

“There will be no puffy gremlin visitors tonight,” she said quietly to herself.

Because times were different. Twenty years ago this landscape she lived on was dotted with young families working to make a living out on family farms thirty miles from town. Twenty years ago the country school was still open and playing host to Halloween parties with green punch, piñatas and those to-die-for popcorn balls.

Twenty years ago the woman in fleece pants wanted to be Pippi Longstocking…

But somewhere in those years, between eight years old and twenty-eight, people got older and moved to town and no more babies were brought home to those farmsteads that smelled like dinner when you drove into the yard. Moms who once dressed as witches became grammas to babies in other states and the hair on the young dad’s head grew gray or fell out.

And there was a time in there, it occurred to her, that perhaps her dad thought all was lost. When the last of his daughters packed her pumpkin costume away in the toy chest in her old room only to pull out of the driveway to get on with growing up, that he may have believed that he and those five neighbors may be the last to make it out on this landscape where the coyotes howl and the moon is bright.

There was a time like that for him, when there were no picnic tables or Pippis to drive around and the knocks on the doors on Halloween went from ten to five to none…

But she was back. Here she was. And so was her picnic table friend. And their other friends who once walked the sidewalks in town as kids were now holding the hands of their own children on Halloween. Here they all were, back home because it seemed, the times were changing.

The woman saw it first hand after a day of work in town, she understood that the nostalgia came from the stop she made  in the local department store on her way home to help her momma hand out candy to kids trick-or-treating in town. She needed to get a taste of the magic she was missing as a childless adult on this holiday, so she stood by the door unsure of what to expect from the children in her once sleepy hometown that had come to life in the midst of an oil boom.

And what she saw was bowl after bowl of candy diminishing before her eyes as a stream of princesses and Spider Men and bumblebees and pirates paraded through the doors, smiled and opened their treat bags hour after hour. She had never seen so many adorable, sparkly, smiling children out and about at one time. Her friend’s children were dressed as army men and Buzz Lightyear, her nephew as a lion, children she worked with in 4-H were witches, children of families she had never met before wandered in all dressed up and excited…all adorable, all doing what children should be doing on Halloween, all here, in Western North Dakota, on Main Street Watford City laying roots for their futures, making memories here in the woman’s hometown.

So, on a dark and sort of windy night a woman in fleece pants and an old FFA sweatshirt sat in her house reminiscing about a childhood full of Halloweens on a landscape that was dotted with friends and neighbors and black cows. She remembered this. And then remembered  a time when she wanted nothing more to be back in that place…and a time when she thought it might never be possible.

So although that woman knew that she wouldn’t hear a knock on the door of her little farmhouse from a witch or a gremlin or a picnic table tonight, she smiled as she popped another Snickers into her mouth knowing that out there her community was changing. New goblins and firemen and zombies were walking the streets of her hometown, finding themselves bonding over skittles and costume ideas. And for one night those children in sequins and cardboard boxes and masks spoke louder than all of the truck traffic, worries, gossip and news stories that move and swell along a Main Street that is changing every day in a town that is pushed to its limits.

Yes, there, on Halloween, on the scariest night of the year, were the children– building strength, camaraderie and hope.

Hope that there is an opportunity for people to make it again, to really build something, to make it possible again for children to grow up in the hills among the hay bales, to eat a neighbor’s popcorn ball, to sit and sip hot cider, to perform a trick for a treat..

To live a good life.

To have a Happy Halloween.

Whether on sidewalks or better yet, country roads.