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I'm going all-in on Halloween this year—and I'm not ashamed of it

Because my family needs it. And because, 2020.

halloween 2020

My family is a bunch of Halloween maniacs, and we don't care who knows it.

In pre-pandemic times, this meant that the Halloween season started around mid-August with the arrival of the first Chasing Fireflies catalogue. If you're not familiar with this pamphlet of dubious first-world joys, it's a full 100 pages of gorgeous, ridiculously expensive costumes (child's zombie queen ensemble: $95) that my family and I like to hate-read together, hooting at the prices and the high production values while also studying the thing like we're gonna be graded on it.

But there was no Chasing Fireflies catalogue in the mailbox this year because #2020 (although it is scrollable online, apparently). The company changed ownership at the beginning of the pandemic, which impacted the business as it did so many others. Judging by the customer-service-related comments on their Facebook page, they may be struggling with a different year than the one they'd planned—like so many of us.

Until 2020, our family relished the spooky silliness of the Halloween season without much thought. We gobbled mini Snickers until we were sick, put out an armada of pumpkins, decorated our city patio with haybales and cornstalks, plotted our trick-or-treating route to hit all the best decorations and celebrity brownstones while being sure to swing by a friend's stoop for a sidewalk cup of hot cider (spiked for the grownups).

But Halloween in a pandemic is forcing us to rethink some of our family's favorite traditions.


I mean, I'd be the first to admit it: Halloween is ridiculous. It's expensive and commercialized. It's one of those holidays that has been meaninglessly blown out of all proportion, to the point where the 1970s child that I was—dressed as a "princess" in one of my mom's old nightgowns—would hardly recognize it any more: the months-long observance of what used to be one night. The orange-black-purple-everywhere of a modern Halloween that starts in August and thinks nothing of a $95 costume for a child.

Besides, who needs spooky decorations when the newspaper is the scariest thing you'll ever see? Who needs a light-up cobweb strung up on the porch when we're all so hopelessly caught up in this worst year ever—and thrashing and struggling just seems to bind us up tighter?

Who needs Halloween in a pandemic year?

I think we do, actually. I really do think we need it.

This year, we're being forced to change traditions we'd never really thought about before—we took for granted that Halloween was one of those optional excesses that you could sidestep completely or dive into fangs-first. But I'm finding that my innate stubbornness (what I guess I could call my native Midwestern optimism, crossed with a Brooklynite's determination to never give up) is just making me double down on Halloween.

I want candy. I want to feel my neighborhood come alive with kids and decorations and people being creative and silly for no real reason. I want to rewatch Halloween specials that remind me of my childhood, and I want to spend time with my kid planning "spooky" activities and making treat bags. I want to delight small people who haven't had much delight this year. (Also, I want to freak them out a little—but only in a fun way, I promise.)

This year, I want to make fun out of fear. More than ever, I want that. So much.

My family was already those people—the ones who kicked off Halloween decorating and planning and baking and Charlie-Brown-watching as early as we could decently get away with it. We're the people who stop juuuuuust shy of actually getting a Halloween tree, but every year I ask myself why we haven't done it yet—it seems like it's only a matter of time.

I haven't decided yet whether we'll do trick-or-treating, honestly—there are too many variables to make that decision until much closer to the actual day.

But this year, counting down to October 31, we're packing in as much Halloweening as we can manage—out of sheer defiance.

Try to scare me, 2020. I dare you. Have you seen our Halloween decorations, deployed in stages with NASA-worthy precision? Stage 1, launching September 1: anything "seasonal but not spooky"—basically this translates as "flotilla of fake fall produce."

Stage 2, launching October 1: "Specifically Halloween but indoor only," which means transforming our living room into a witchy theme park where you can't walk two feet through our house without tripping over a plastic body part.

Stage 3, which coincided with our annual apple-picking-pumpkin-patching expedition (which we did at the same farm this year as every year before, but with a timed appointment): "Organic matter," in which apples spill over the kitchen counters, haybales and cornstalks get propped up in every corner, and the human inhabitants of the house are officially outnumbered by pumpkins of various sizes.

Stage 4: Outdoor decorations and lights, which, when fully assembled, can be seen from outer space.

Every night after homework, we stress-watch an episode of Halloween Wars or The Halloween Baking Championship together. I am not a great baker, but I have to fight back against the encroachment of apples in our 800 square foot apartment (right now, mid-October, we're averaging about 10 apples per square foot), so I've started pumping out seasonal baked goods. Our kitten has special Halloween toys, which drive him into an exquisite state of furry madness, like the wild little gremlin he is.

We're making treat bags for friends and kids in the neighborhood. I'm sending Halloween treats to my nieces and nephews around the country. We've watched all the good Halloween movies and we're going to keep watching them—in fact, we're going to a drive-in movie the weekend before Halloween to see Ghostbusters with friends.

So come at me, Halloween 2020. I'm ready for you. You can't scare me, I live with like 20 partially-assembled skeletons. Next year the Chasing Fireflies catalogue is going to be my memoir. I am owning the Halloween wars. I am pre-emptively haunting my own house. I am not going to let this pandemic take one inch of fake cobwebbing out of my helpless, hopeful hands.

We are in this thing to win it, people.

This year, it's Halloween or high water.

Our favorite spooktacular Halloween finds from the Motherly Shop!

Luna witch doll

witch doll

This is the sweetest little witch we ever did see. She'll bring instant Halloween magic into your home (because you know, that's what witches do)! And if she ends up staying out year round because you can't bear to put her away with the Halloween decorations, we totally get it.

$65

Pumpkin witch onesie

pumpkin witch onesie

Get your tiniest pumpkin in on the action with this adorable felted onesie. (Psst: It also comes in kid + mom tees, so the whole family can match. I mean, come on!)

$36

Halloween hair slides

halloween slides

These adorable Halloween hair clips add instant spook (and glitter) to every hair style—babies all the way to mamas!

$9

Dragon wing + mask set

dragon mask and wing set

Halloween costumes have never been easier. This adorable set of wings + a mask will take any outfit to instant dragon in seconds!

$18

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

<p> Siobhan Adcock is the Experts Editor at Motherly and the author of two novels about motherhood, <a href="https://www.siobhanadcock.com/" target="_blank">The Completionist</a> and <a href="https://www.siobhanadcock.com/the-barter" target="_blank">The Barter</a>. Her writing has also appeared in Romper, Bustle, Ms., McSweeney's, Slate, Salon, The Daily Beast, The Chicago Review of Books and elsewhere. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. </p>

Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

Minimize smoke exposure.

Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

Do your best to filter the air.

According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

"Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

"COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

Most importantly, don't panic.

In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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