And now daylight savings time has ended and the world is dark by 4pm, and I have pulled out the gloves, hats, and can’t leave my flat without two pairs of socks. November has set in. It has been awhile since I have posted, but as the winter comes i can’t help but think of our lovely summer vacation. There were beaches, but instead of bathing costumes, we wore raincoats, jumpers and wellies. We traveled to the farthest, most remote place I have ever been – the Isle of Raasay. My son’s best friend since moving to Cambridge three years ago is the daughter of some of our favorite neighbors. Those neighbors happen to have a family home on this romantic and far-flung island, with scanty cell service, variable weather, loads of sheep, challenging trails and breath-taking scenery. We were delighted and grateful to be invited along for their yearly Scottish adventure.
Have y’all heard of this amazing new thing called a momcation? I recently embarked on one and it was…amazing. Experts say that moms are too stressed, are constantly engaged in some form of child-care, managing households on top of career responsibilities, or emotional labour, and basically underpaid for all of the things that we do for our families. Balancing everything and keeping everyone happy and healthy can be overwhelming! Which is why I was delighted when one of my fellow mom-friends in my neighborhood suggested the moms of our small community indulged in a weekend away.
One of the other moms in our group just so happened to have in-laws with a beautiful, spacious summer home about an hour north of Copenhagen, and we planned enough in advance to score some cheap tickets on RyanAir and just like that the eight of us were off to one of the most happiest places on the planet – Denmark!
I have two pro-tips incase you want to embark on a brilliant relaxation quest like we did in Denmark. First, the Danish word for hello is “hej.” Luckily, I discovered this with Google translate, so I quickly learned that it is not actually pronounced “hedge” or “heg.” It sounds like “hi” or “high.” Luckily, I discovered this important distinction before actually speaking to any Danes.
I love Halloween, it’s pretty much favorite holiday. Halloween has definitely become more fun once Pumpkin started getting into it too. For Halloween 2017, he wanted to be an astronaut. So, like any good millennial mom I trawled around Pinterest to find something special. The final costume consisted of three distinct parts: the helmet, the suit and the jet pack.
The helmet was the most difficult part. I was never super keen on paper maché as a kid, but figured maybe now it would be fun and different? Heh. I mostly drew from this wonderful tutorial on creating a paper maché space helmet with the assistance of a balloon. For the paper maché mixture, I used straight up PVA craft glue and water. I did not take many pictures of this process, but here we go:
- Inflate balloon – ideally, you would measure the head of the helmet the balloon was made for and add maybe 3-5 inches to the diameter of the ballon before beginning. I did not do this and grossly over-estimated the size of the helmets.
- Rip up paper – a friend of mine who makes and sells piñatas does not recommend newspaper but rather brown craft paper! I used newspaper for our helmets.
- Mix about half and half glue and water – your mileage may vary.
- Place balloon in a pot or some such thing to stabilise it, dip paper in glue mix, run paper between two fingers to remove excess and smooth onto the balloon. Repeat until balloon is covered, except for the part at the bottom.
- Ideally, you would wait for the balloons to completely dry and repeat step four numerous times. I did not allow for enough drying time before Halloween and only really was able to do three rounds on the balloons. Mine were somewhat sturdy, but a lot more flexible than I had wanted. The harder you want your helmet, the more rounds of paper maché you should do, which means waiting for it to totally dry. We live in the UK, so this means a very long time. If I were to try this again, I would go for at least five rounds of paper mache – possibly six or seven, this time using craft paper instead of newspaper.
- Paint helmet – I used white acrylic paint. I am not a paint expert, I just stood in Hobbycraft for a long time trying to decide which paint would do the job for the best price. It worked pretty well!
- When the paint dries, pop balloon, gently pull out the rubber. You should have an exposed balloon at the bottom to make this part easy.
- Using your human, measure out a rectangular space where their face will go. I would recommend making this rectangle long horizontally with the short, vertical ends slightly curved outward for the best fit. Cut paper maché out along this outline.
- Using black duct (or Duck) tape, tape around edges at bottom of helmet and the open window. The tutorial linked above has lots of nifty ideas about screens and LED lights on the inside and painting the inside of the helmet, but I was a procrastinator and skipped that part. You could also consider painting NASA (or Rogue NASA) logos on your helmet too.
A couple tips looking back: If this is your chosen costume, start early, like before the first of October. The climate in the UK is so humid that it takes things an excruciatingly long time to dry! Pumpkin’s helmet turned out pretty good, and it is still lurking around his closet for playtime a year later, but it could have been better if I had started earlier. I do recommend using a heavier paper than newspaper in retrospect also.
The Space Suit
Luckily, the suit was not as difficult as the helmet and came together rather quickly. I used this tutorial to create his suit out of old sweatpants and an old hoodie. For an average sized four year old, I think I went through about one roll of silver Duck tape and four to five rolls of white? It is difficult to say, because I tried to make an adult size version as well.
- Flatten out the hoodie – I started with the inside of the hood. From the neck, I placed strips of silver tape running vertical to the head part. You have to be a bit careful not to let the fabric bunch and the hoodie is a good place to start to get the hang of this.
- Using the white Duck tape, repeat this process on the outside of the hood.
- Next, flip the hoodie over and from the bottom center to the neckline, place strips of white Duck tape until the entire back to the sleeves is covered. Repeat this process on the front.
- The arms are a little tricky, from the wrist to the shoulder, I placed vertical strips of white Duck tape along each arm, and below the arm from the hem of the sweat shirt to the arm pit.
- Outline the wrists with silver Duck tape (black works here also) and around the bottom hem. I also used a little piece of silver to make him a name-tag. For a bit of contrast, I lined the hoodie edges with black.
- Lay the trousers flat, and repeat the process. For the center/crotch area, I just used a couple shorter strips – one for the front, one for the back, and one for the crotch. I left the waistband free of tape so it would not irritate Pumpkin’s tummy, and also the hoodie was long enough that it covered it anyway. Use silver/black trim for the ankles, or just find some boots and use those. Pumpkin’s favorite red wellies worked perfect.
A couple tips – luckily this part did not take as long. The trickiest part was probably along the zipper – you have to really line up the tape just right. I tried to make an adult-sized version; however, I learned that you should always use a size bigger than what you normally wear because it is inevitable that the Duck tape process will make things shrink quite a bit. I could not get the pants on when I finished! Luckily, my hoodie worked out ok, and what really matters in the end is that Pumpkin looked fantastic. Also, Duck tape makes all sorts of fun coloured and patterned tapes! It is now my go-to tape for everything.
The jet pack
The jet pack was also quite easy to make and used a lot of recyclables, perhaps what the British call “junk modelling.” I was inspired by this tutorial. I used some thick black elastic, a small cardboard box, two two-litre empty soda bottles, glue, red, yellow and orange felt, silver Duck tape, and silver spray paint.
- Using your silver Duck tape, tape soda bottles to cardboard box so they are side by side longways. A glue gun might work instead of Duck tape, but the PVC glue I used for the paper maché did not work and I had some left over.
- Spray box-bottle thing with silver spray paint and wait for it to dry.
- Cut out felt into flames – can be messy and abstract!
- Using that Duck tape, stick felt pieces to the openings of the soda bottles.
- Find your human, measure out elastic and tape (or glue) to back of the cardboard box so the whole thing can fit on their back like a rucksack/backpack.
Again, this one was pretty easy to assemble and thankfully used things that we had lying around our flat.
Last, but not least, my partner did want to be left out. I bought him a black hoodie and matching sweat pants and got some planet and star wall stickers. Costume sorted!
One of the best parts about this costume is that it will keep your kids warm if it’s chilly out for trick or treating and Halloween parties.
I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and found some outer-wordly inspiration for future Halloweens! Enjoy what I like to call the most wonderful time of the year!
First, I am so grateful for your existence. You and your tablet/phone/device friends has received a great deal of criticism recently, especially concerning your public use by children. You and your screen-bearing comrades have caught the ire of some of upset mom-bloggers, overly concerned that the few moments they see you and my child are representative of all of his time in the world! Don’t worry, I am here to say, iPad, don’t listen to the haters. We are so glad you are here.
When I had my son, I proudly and adamantly barred him from ANY screen time for the first two years of his life! Inspired by the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics at the time, there would be NO SCREENS for the first 24 months of his life (although this recommendation has been updated recently)! Despite protestations from grandparents and eye-rolls from pediatricians, we pressed on with zero screens! My dad had a cute anecdote about how as a small child, I would always look at the television screen when commercials came on because they were broadcast at a different pitch than the other programs…
My partner and I are children of the ’90s, and our childhoods were dominated by screens. I could tell you what time of day it was by which Disney inspired cartoon was on television. I spent many long weekends and summer afternoons planted in front of my NES saving Princess Zelda and carrying the Mario brothers over hungry Venus fly traps. I distinctly the O.J. Simpson car chase and the Tonja Harding versus Nancy Kerrigan saga. We came of age alongside the twenty-four hour news cycle and the birth of reality TV. I watched the first ten seasons of The Real World and Road Rules repeatedly. I binge-watched before it was a thing with Kids in the Hall marathons on Comedy Central and old Lost in Space and Twilight Zone marathons on Sci Fi (I guess now it has another name, but whatever). One of the scariest parts of my early teens was when my dad threatened to save money buy chucking our cable subscription.
Our parents worked long hours, and at least in my neck of the woods ten was the cut-off age at most after school programs. I was a chunky kid and not into sports, what else was my mom going to do?
But of course, I was (and still am) determined to do things differently when I had my son. Excessive screen time for children has been linked to obesity, brain damage, aggressive behavior, laziness, mental health problems, and sleep deprivation, among other nightmares no one wants for their children. Even the revered huckster of Apple products, Steve Jobs, did not let his own children play with iPads.
Those ladies taking the moral high ground against iPads must be onto SOMETHING right?
So, a couple decades after the days of Kids in the Hall, Mario Brothers and The Real World, my partner and I began to emerge from our new parent haze. We dabbled in Disney, allowing our son to watch Frozen as his first screen experience. He already knew all of the words to most of the songs and it was a really magical moment. We had one television at the time, but it was not hooked up to broadcast TV or cable, so content was on-demand and usually streamed without advertisements. Now, we don’t even have television in our flat! The iPad negated the need or desire for one.
I used to haul a massive bag full of activities for our son around to restaurants or meetings and the like. I would put all the educational toys, crayons, activity books, story books, soft toys, blocks, anything that I could shove into the diaper bag that would entertain him. The reality was, as a two to three year old, you are lucky if most things hold his attention for 15 minutes. It’s also a lot of crap to carry around, and then you become that hot mess mom chasing crayons along the floor of the restaurant while your spawn makes a bunch of noise about being bored or overstimulated or whatever. Not a fun look, not a relaxing evening out, and increasing the potential to get frustrated at your child and everyone around you. Enter the iPad.
I still do carry around non-screen activities, but honestly sometimes using that iPad as a carrot for an evening out a few times a month is the best bet. As we transitioned from harried new baby parents to somewhat more with it toddler parents, we wanted to go out more and get back to life. Our super energetic, amazing, charming, but still extremely energetic boy could sometimes be a challenge when we were out and about. We were probably eating tacos, and I must have brought along the iPad for some reason and we had an epiphany, just let him watch something. It started, like our foray into screen time, probably with Frozen. He happily watched his program, we happily ate our tacos, no one ran around, no one shouted, and I did not have to pick up any stray toys or crayons from the floor. It was glorious.
In regards to the spate of “open letters” upset that some parents give their children iPads for dinners out, y’all don’t know us, don’t tell us what we know. Listen ladies, my kid only gets the iPad a few times a week, never at family dinners at home outside the purview of your judgmental glare, says please and thank you (most of the time), generally performs well at school, is active and involved in his community and plays soccer/football and swims like a fish, and has pretty much memorised the deep sea creatures episode of David Attenborough’s Blue Planet by the age of five. Did you know what a cephalopod was at five? Didn’t think so. He’s fine, and so are we! Maybe your children weren’t properly stimulated, seeing as you are so bored at your bistro you take interest in what other diners are doing?
What else is the iPad fantastic for? Traveling. In some ways, we have lived a charmed life of traveling, and so far my son has made seven Trans-Atlantic flights, two Trans-Asian flights and as he told dancing partners at my best friend’s wedding this summer, a journey on a train that goes underwater. Wow. So, a lot of people ask me what is my secret. Oh dear, I wish I had some kind of dynamo mom pack I could whip out and wow y’all with, but my secret is being extremely lax about screens during travel. That and being willing to purchase over-priced airport garbage food, my son is quite keen and easily satisfied by croissants so look for the Pret A Manger (they also have good preflight salads if you are nutty about food like me and want to make sure you eat something fresh and green before flying).
Seriously, when you are managing passports, tickets, other passengers (you’d be surprised how just visual contact with your child gets some people very upset!), security, baggage claim, sometimes it’s just easier to put your kid in front of the one eyed babysitter. He’s quiet, subdued, engaged in something allow you, the one in charge, of controlling the shit show. The last trans-Atlantic flight we were on we were seated in front of a couple with two children about our son’s age. The mom valiantly forbade her children from watching the in-flight entertainment, bless her heart. Although my philosophy toward other parents is mostly “let mom be mom” I couldn’t help but wonder why she would make things so much more difficult for herself? It’s an airplane! Most children don’t experience long-haul flights as part of their weekly or monthly routine, it’s not going to fry their brains or end in years of therapy and medical intervention if you just let them watch whatever flavor of the month movie is on the screen.
So, iPad, I am ever so grateful that you have been there for us for our occasional eat-outs and somewhat nomadic lifestyle.
However, there are some drawbacks. If your kid has loads of energy like mine, the iPad can a real problem, because it does not allow him to actually use that energy. We don’t use it daily. Also, it is tricky because he is learning faster and faster to get ahead of us, even at the age of five. He can get onto WiFi, scroll, search for new programs on Netflix, and is quite keen to determine the iPad’s passcode. We do our best, he gets on average about ten hours a week, which is more than plenty. We still don’t have a TV, and I like not having one. So maybe the people at your bistro with the kid on the iPad are just non-TV owning weirdos and this is Junior’s only chance to catch up on Paw Patrol* so mind your business?