Category Archives: Halloween

Not A Box

Every Halloween, I get a longing (and a cold sweat) to make a homemade costume out of an old box from the garage.

When I was a kid, we didn’t buy expensive costumes. We rummaged through closets and junk drawers and toy bins and made costumes. But alas, my 21st century, shopaholic kids aren’t interested in such out-of-the-box, made-from-a-box pursuits. Instead, they wait eagerly for the pop-up Halloween store to open its doors, and they spend gobs of money on overpriced, over-muscled, and over-commercialized costumes, like Superman, Obi-Wan-Kenobe, Optimus Prime, and Max Steel. (I have no idea who Max Steel is either, but his costume is collecting dust in one of my many messy closets.)

It’s not that I’ve never tried to make one of the kids a Halloween costume from a box. It’s that I’ve never ever succeeded. This year, Dylan and Riley are dressing up as Captain America (shield sold separately!) and a Hot Wheels racecar driver (the yellow one!), respectively.

I’ve accepted my fate. I’m the Mama of two boys who don’t want to wear a costume made out of a box.  Or am I?

A funny thing happened recently.


Do you know who’s inside that box?

Riley! Riley who drags boxes from the garage into the house when I’m not looking! Riley who uses tape, paper towel rolls, pipe cleaners, birthday candles, and glue (so much glue!) to turn boxes into space ships, grocery stores, and monster crushers! Riley who dreams up the wildest, strangest, and most out-of-the-box ideas into which to turn a box!

I blame the fact that I didn’t connect these dots sooner on Minecraft. (To be clear, I blame everything on Minecraft.)

Riley has to dress up as a storybook character for the costume parade at school, and he can’t wear his Hot Wheels racecar driver costume because we don’t have a Hot Wheels book (thank God), but he can be a racecar because of this


Not a Box is a book about a rabbit that insists his box is not a box. Rather, it’s a racecar or a robot or a pirate ship or a hot air balloon or a tugboat or a space ship…or anything he imagines!

The way I see it, this is my last chance to make a homemade costume before Riley’s old enough to figure out that costumes made by mom aren’t cool.

“Riley,” I asked tentatively one night (while hand-feeding him marshmallows), “how about Not A Box for the costume parade? We could take a box from the garage and turn it into a ‘not a box’ racecar. What do you think?”

Silence. (Not Minecraft silence, but thoughtful silence.)

“What do you think?” I asked again.

“Okay,” he said.

“Okay?” I asked.

“Okay,” he said.


Holy crap! One of my kids said I could make a costume out of a box!


Be patient, Mamas. Dreams do come true.




Filed under boys, craft project, Crafty Mama, Halloween


When Harry first got sick, and when his herniated discs turned into insulinoma, surgery, hypoglycemia, and herniated discs, I secretly wished – but didn’t dare write it or say it – that Harry would be here for Halloween.  Because I honestly wasn’t sure if he’d make it.  And because on every Halloween, I delighted in squeezing Harry into a bee costume that I bought when he was a puppy.  I’m positive it made him want to flip me the bird, but he let me do it every year because he knew it made me the happiest Mama on the planet.  Harry the Bee was my anchor.  Harry the Bee reminded me that if a black & white, smush-faced dog with tall, pointy ears could dress like a bee, then everything would be okay.

Harry the Bee

It happened to be Halloween morning when we finally took Harry to see our beloved vet in Miami for the talk – an honest conversation about his health, his quality of life, what we could do, and how much time we had left.  The first thing he said when he walked in the room was, “What has happened to your dog is extraordinary.”

He told us insulinoma is rare.  He saw about one dog every other year with the disease.  He told us insulinoma in a young dog is rare.  Harry was only eight years old.  He told us fast and aggressive metastasis of insulinoma after surgery is rare.  Harry’s insulin to blood sugar ratio was through the roof just a few weeks after surgery.  He said he’d never seen anything like it.

Dog gets insulinoma.  Dogs gets surgery.  Dog gets better.

That’s how the story was supposed to go.  Instead, Halloween ended up being Harry’s last night here on Earth.  After we returned from Miami, Harry was too sick to wear the bee costume.  He was too sick to eat or even stand up.  I can’t tell you how many times the doorbell rang with trick-or-treaters that evening and he didn’t even lift his head.

Harry fought like hell to stay with us, and we fought like soldiers to keep him here, but his body was too weak to fight anymore.  He told us he was done, and we listened.

After a long, arduous, and heart-wrenching night, we drove back to Miami to say goodbye to our extraordinary friend.  I rubbed his front legs to help him fall asleep just like I did when he was a puppy on my lap, and with my tears dripping on his legs, I wished him sweet dreams as he drifted away, finally free of the disease and suffering that unfairly plagued his body.

I could tell you about how extraordinarily awful the last few months have been.  About how our birthdays were marked with fear and anxiety.  About how my heart leapt out of my chest every time the phone rang.  About how I cried every day.  About how we raced to the animal hospital at least once a week.  About how we bought pumpkins at the pumpkin patch but never got around to carving or decorating them.  About how we never got more than a few consecutive hours of sleep.  About how we fed Harry every two hours, even at night, to prevent hypoglycemia-induced seizures.  About how I never left him alone for more than a few hours.

Do you remember the season of “Lost” when Jack and the group discovered they had to type a code and press “execute” on the computer every 108 minutes to avoid worldwide catastrophe?  That’s what feeding (or not feeding) Harry was like.  In my mind, if he didn’t get that small, frequent, high-protein meal, disaster was imminent.  His life became a burden that I carried as any loving Mama would do, but the pace at which we all, including Harry, worked to keep up was ultimately unsustainable.

Losing Harry, who we loved like one of our children, was agonizing.  Having to explain to the boys that their Bo Berry was gone forever was equally unbearable, but what was truly extraordinary was the way they handled the news – with grace, courage, honesty, and love.  My job is to educate my children, but as usual, they teach me.

Just like Harry did.

When I wrote a letter of gratitude to Harry earlier this year on his eighth birthday, I had no idea it would become his eulogy.  What happened to Harry was extraordinary, but then again, he was an extraordinary dog, and we were extraordinarily fortunate to have him in our lives.


Sweet dreams, Harry. 

I will carry you forever in my (broken) heart.


Your Mama



Filed under death, Halloween, Harry, health