Monday, November 1, 2010

A kid, his car wash and a whole lot of Halloween fun

When Max told me he wanted to be an "arrrrr wahhh" (car wash) for Halloween, I decided I was going to make him the best damn arrrrr wahhh ever. I didn't know if he'd actually be into it—the car costume I put together last year amused him for maybe 10 minutes—but I didn't care. I was inspired by the suggestions I'd gotten here, I like a good challenge, and I will basically do anything to make Max happy. Trust me, I wasn't looking to appease the scrooges who thought the kids just HAD to dress up on Halloween.

Here's what went into this contraption:
• I call a local janitorial supply company to see about getting mopheads with felt flaps. The woman's really nice, and I end up explaining what I'm up to. "You need ShamWow!" she says. "Sham what?!" I say. She explains it's the material I'm thinking of, sold in large pieces. Problem: I have no time to order any. I call up a local "As Seen On TV" store. They have a rip-off version! On sale for $12.99 for three big squares!
• I browse Home Depot for inspiration, and get excited to find a squeegee with a small handle that looks like Max should be able to grasp it. A guy there finds me some sturdy wire I need for the car wash flaps.
• I realize I need a bubble blower. All the stores are out of them. I get in touch with a bubble company. They kindly offer to send one. It arrives on Wednesday, and it does not work. I take it over to Gyneen and Greg, neighbors who know how to fix things. Not this time, but they do have a boxed disco set with the song "Car Wash." I send out an email to my mother's group. A woman who runs a local art and music center offers to lend me a bubble blower. A woman who happens to work for Little Kids offers to hook me up with some bubble action, too. Whew. Clearly, it takes a village to build a human car wash.
• I hit the Dollar Store for more inspiration, and spot tan, looped brushes that look like the buffer ones in a car wash. I get 10. A little old lady asks if I am planning on doing a lot of cleaning.
• I spend hours cutting up felt strips and figuring out how to attach them and everything else to the wagon. Hardest part: the duct tape. It keeps getting stuck to itself, my shirt, my fingers.

And then, the reveal. Dave and I hauled the car wash to Max's school on Thursday, because a local Embassy Suites hotel was hosting a party for the kids in his school, their 19th year of doing this. I thought Max might sit in the car wash and we could wheel him around, but, noooooo. This is exactly what happened when he saw it:

Max had a blast at the party, the first year he was ever brave enough to venture inside.

It helped that his BFF, a pirate, was there.

Various companies—including Colgate-Palmolive, Cadbury North America, American Express Travel, Coca Cola, Kraft, Pfizer and Verizon—set up Halloween scenes in 16 rooms and gave out goodies.

Max wheeled the cart everywhere, insisted on eating lunch in the hotel bar (though we wouldn't let him order a martini), and also got to ride in one of the hotel's vans.

The next day was our town's annual Halloween parade. In recent years, we've given up on going with Max, as the crowds are too much for him. But he said he wanted to go. Turned out he had an ulterior motive.

He dragged us to the ice-cream store there, and had two cups of chocolate.

Then we wandered around the outskirts of the town's parade, Max pulling his car wash the entire time.

A judge for the costume contest checked out the car wash.

Sabrina dressed up as a car wash attendant. Read: She didn't want to put on a costume and was more than happy to tote around squeegees, eat ice-cream and grub candy.

I dressed up as a suburban mom (read: I wore yoga pants and flats and had my hair in a ponytail). There were lots of creative costumes, including my friend Kristen and her husband, who dressed up as the shower scene in Psycho.

Then Max spotted a car repair shop. And decided his car wash needed tinkering.

Rodney, a mechanic, gave the car wash a tune up.

Max had his eye on some truck wheels but Rodney wisely said, "Sorry, sir, those are too big for your car wash."

And then, an hour later, one of the judges found me and handed me this:

Max's car wash had won Cutest Costume. Only he wasn't there to accept the certificate because he and Dave were long gone. They'd wandered up a nearby street, away from the crowd and noise. Max was having a great time doing his own Halloween thing, as usual, and that was all the satisfaction I needed. Although, yep, it was cool to win, and Max was psyched when I showed the certificate to him. He fell asleep holding it.

On Halloween, he was raring to go trick-or-treating.

The car wash held up pretty well.

Sabrina dressed up as iCarly.

Max decided to act scary, like the pumpkins.

He only took candy wrapped in purple or brown wrappers.

And he made friends with a ghost.

I fully expect him to wake up tomorrow and want to take the car wash to school. I'm not dismantling that thing anytime soon, both because I want him to keep enjoying it and taking it apart will be very boring.

What kind of fun did your kids have? Anyone want a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup? Snickers? Nerds? What's your poison?


  1. Congratulations!! SO glad Max enjoyed himself, my favorite part of you car wash is the cars on the handle actually driving into the car wash. We also had a blast trick or treating. Hailey had a blast going from door to door grabbing pieces of candy and carefully dropping them into her pumpkin bucket. She went as a dragonfly. Because Hailey can't walk we carried her around and after we left each house we told her to fly to the next house and she continuously flapped her arms the entire time. She definitely got into her character. What fun it was too see her so excited!

  2. You are SO talented! You did a great job with that car wash--would make Martha Stewart proud!

    Glad Max had a good time. This was the first time Charlie did any treating--he liked taking candy, he doesn't actually eat candy! He just takes it! Still. . . a nice adventure for us!

  3. Love the video! LOVE your award-winning costume!! I'm so glad that Max really loved it! Xxx

  4. Ellen... I just have one word. AWESOME. My super-power son has become obsessed with you tube & was very interested in watching Max & his iPad. (Though he did ask if he stopped talking if he could have an iPad too.)

    My son will be thrilled to see this post & Max's costume. VERY creative and definitely very deserving of cutest costume. Kudos to Max for sticking around long enough to be judged.

    My son this year was willing to participate with his Cub Scout pack on the pack parade float on Saturday night. He was even more thrilled when we went trick-or-treating with his best friend, that a typical self-reliant 2 year old became his buddy. He did a great job making sure the little frog got a chance to ring a door bell (a majestic feat when you trick-or treat in a group of 9 children). Then since the frog had a hard time climbing the stairs made sure he got an extra treat for his froggy-buddy to put in his stash.

    All in all one of the best Halloween weekends yet, sounds like you had one too! (And I saw at least 3 iCarly's so Sabrina would have been in good company)

  5. I am so happy that the costume turned out well and that Max loved-loved-LOVED it! Makes the effort worthwhile! The award was well deserved!

    We had a wonderful time--the policeman ripped his cheapass costume by the third house but it didn't stop him one bit. The princess got totally into character despite the sweatshirt and pants under his costume, and I got a few "How could you let your boy wear that outfit" looks, but fugemiftheycantdeal, that's my attitude! The collected and left-over candy is in the top cabinet over the fridge, now Mom and I just have to RESIST while we ration to the younguns. All in all, a good holiday for a change!

  6. The look and response to that was just awesome! You did great mama :)

  7. Totally impressive car wash, and Max's reaction was so sweet. Congrats on the award. So ironic, considering the whole Redbook scandal!

  8. Such a great costume...holy cow. And finally justice on who wins the cutest costume award! Every time we go some place where costumes are judged some lousy one wins. It's rigged I tells ya!

  9. WHAT A FANTASTIC POST! I'm so glad Max and Sabrina had a fun Halloween! My favorite part has got to be the mechanic giving the Arr Waah a tune up. LOL!

    Great Job Ellen!

  10. WOW!!! you win Mom of the year award for that one! What an amazing costume, and I'm so glad Max really got into it!! I had tears in my eyes reading this post, thinking about my own little guy in a few more years (he mostly clung to me and said "mama" while trick-or-treating this year!) I'll have to email you next fall when trying to think of a good costume to go with Jack's wheelchair - maybe a racecar!

  11. What a great post! LOVE the car wash and all the great fun Max had with it! Our extra-special kiddo was a zebra this year. I pasted the link to my blog post on this comment, but since I am a complete computer-idiot, I make no promises that it works :o) Our other young kiddo was Medusa... complete with snakes in her hair and a little stone animal that she carried around telling people it was her pet until she got angry with it. The teens just browsed around in the costume box and went with their friends. Glad you had a fun halloween!

  12. Happiest Halloween story I have EVER read.


  13. That made me cry thinking about how you made Max's dream come true -- thinking about how much those things mean for our kids.

    Ben is 16 and Halloween is still his favourite holiday. He wanted to be a zebra, but we could only find a zebra body costume and a donkey head -- so he was Eeyore being a donkey.

  14. Dude, I was FINE until I watched the video and then bam! Tears. Dag nabbit! What a tremendous job all the way around...I am so happy that Max got such joy out of the holiday! kudos to your entire support team that helped pull all of it off!


  15. I found this post thru The Blogging Angels, Rebecca.
    And I am so glad I did. Your max is simply wonderful and the car wash was the best costume EVER!
    I work with special needs kids- I'm the nurse that comes at night to watch them sleep so Mom and Dad can get some too. Nights are often hard, what with the cooler temps and the dark and the breathing problems or seizures or OCD tendencies that make having a light bulb burn out in the nightlight a catastrophic event... but it's what I do. I was asked just today how I can work with kids who may not be around as long as 'normal' kids ( not my words remember) and my answer was...
    I am there for as long as they need me because they need me. When they don't need me anymore someone else will.
    I have kids that are in their 20's and living in group homes and thriving and living full and productive lives.

  16. Just had to say:

    I did the shower scene, as well! Except I did it solo; taped the knife half in, half out.

    Glad Max had a good time.

  17. That is awesome!! You are fantastic!! BTW I love the Carlo's Bake Shop! I'm watching Cake Boss right now!

  18. That is one super amazing costume! You need to make mine next year. Even cooler he won! That is great! And like you said, most important, Max had a happy halloween!

  19. Oh my goodness - worst Halloween ever for us! Kate started puking Sunday morning at breakfast (in a restaurant, of course) and we decided after the 4th round to go to the ER (she has mito and any dehydration is dangerous). Called our wonderful doc to let her know (I have her CELL number!) and she helped me figure out that we had Zofran. So a dose of that and we were able to go out for a short trick or treat. Or so we thought. Costume had disappeared. Quick and fruitless run to Party City to find another. Then convinced Kate to wear last year's, then found the new one in the bottom of the dress up bin. Whew! And she couldn't eat ANY candy b/c of the vomitting. Then spent a lot of the night up worrying over her low blood sugars. I can't wait to go to bed early tonight (after eating lots of candy).

    Looks like Max had a great time, a wonderful success for your family.

  20. Thanks, everyone. Glad to hear about your kid's Halloweens...except for poor Kate's! Next year's has GOT to be better, right?! I'm sorry. Max would love to take her for a ride in his car wash. :)

  21. This made me so happy to read!! I love that idea for a costume-- so fun!!

  22. so cute! That is awesome that he got the cutest costume!

  23. Oh my gosh, Ellen, that is awesome! Love all the details like the toy cars on the handle and the air fresheners. Well deserved win, although I know the best part was how much Max loved it.

  24. I don't post alot, but this story reminds me why I come & read almost everyday........
    The whole time reading , I was smiling :)

  25. Thanks. Oh, and Elizabeth, I used to live in Hoboken, home of Carlos Bake Shop. It had great stuff, but it was just another good bakery. A few weekends ago, we were in Hoboken and the line to get in there was two blocks long. Crazy!

  26. It's obvious how much you love your kids. Seeing Max tote around that little car wash made my heart smile. :)

  27. Fabulous, Ellen! You the MOM!

    Thanks for sharing the details - so helpful. Also, encouraging to those whose children are younger - their child's Halloween 'spirit' can come later. Barbara

  28. That is AWESOME! You are so creative! So glad Max and Sabrina enjoyed themselves, each in their own way.

  29. Holy ShamWow... amazing. I'm a little bit teary-ed up over here.

    I love that his obsession set you off in amazing mom-creativity over it!!

    My son requested a robot costume this year. And serously we had more fun MAKING it than he ever could wearing it!!

    Ahh how I miss your parade... sigh.

  30. Really love the video of him just taking off....he seemed so excited to have his car wash.


Thanks for sharing!

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