Two mysteries

When I got up this morning, I walked into the kitchen and stepped in a puddle in front of the kitchen sink.

(This is rarely a good way to start the day.)

In our case, though, it turned out to be less annoying and more extremely perplexing—investigation revealed the puddle to be some sort of cleaning fluid (I suspect the sort of “general cleaner” I sometimes buy by the jug), but we cannot figure out the source. I mean, in front of the sink, there, I expected either some sort of catastrophic plumbing issue or a bottle in the under-sink cabinet gone capsized. And… nothing. We can find nothing. I can’t even find a bottle that matches the smell, anywhere. Nor was there a trail from under the sink, indicating a spill from within. It was simply a self-contained puddle of cleaner.

Otto and I are considering the ramifications of someone breaking into the house and pouring a few capfulls of cleaner on the floor in front of the sink. What does it MEAN? Was it a murder plot—intended to slip one of us up, cause a broken neck as we skidded butt-first, crashing to the floor? Was it a not-so-subtle sign that the floor needs mopping? (The floor does indeed need mopping. I have children; the floor ALWAYS needs mopping.) Did someone in the family sleep-clean?

It’s very curious.

I was ready to indict a “helpful” child, but as I scouted around at 8:30 I discovered Chickadee was still sleeping (she’s in training for the teen years) and Monkey was still holed up in his room with several dozen Animorphs books.

So, um, if you spilled some all-purpose cleaner in front of my sink recently, please speak up. It’s sort of weirding me out.

* * * * *

Chickadee has decided on her Halloween costume, and this one delights me no end. She has this shirt and plans to outfit herself according, half-angel, half-devil. It is perfect for her. (Tune in soon for my adventures in fashioning half a halo, one wing, half a tail, and a single horn.)

Monkey, though, is stumped. I have MANY MANY FINE IDEAS for him, but I am being rejected at every turn. Frankly, I’m starting to lose my patience. I mean, the fact that my 8-year-old bubble of cheerful love doesn’t see the ENDLESS HUMOR in my suggestion that he go as a sad emo kid is quite trying. I was all set to paint his nails black, smear on the black eyeliner, and everything. Likewise, our multiple suggestions of female get-ups (“You have GREAT HAIR, Monkey,” Chickadee assured him, “Most cheerleaders WISH they had hair like yours! I’ll braid it for you!”) are being turned down right and left. He does not want to be a girl of any kind, no matter how hilarious.

His only idea so far is that he’d like to be a spy. When quizzed on how spies look, I was given the wow-you-are-too-stupid-to-live look and a large sigh. “They dress like EVERYONE ELSE, Mom, otherwise you’d know they were SPIES!” Oh. Right. After prolonged debate it was allowed as how a spy MIGHT wear a trenchcoat.

Yeah. Um. Have you seen a trenchcoat in a boys’ size 7? Like, ever? Me neither.

So. We are open to rad costume ideas for a smallish boy, and/or ideas on how to procure a tiny trenchcoat for not very many dollars. I’m sure you have nothing else needing your attention right now, so feel free to get right on that.

(Unless you’re the one who spilled the cleaner in the kitchen. Because if that was you, I’d really rather you just come back over here and clean the rest of the floor, instead.)


  1. SoMo

    I say have him go as a serial killer born from the torture by his mother and sister. Maybe a small sofa cushion for the years of therapy that didn’t work. HA!

    As for the cleaner, I admit my cleaning obsession has gotten the better of me and I started the floor. However, after such a long drive, I didn’t have the energy to complete the job. Besides, I had to get home in time to get my kid to school and clean my floors. It is sad cycle, but one I must live with. :)

  2. Pats

    Mir, do you think you could find a trenchcoat in a smaller junior (women’s) size? I have done that with my son in the past… just didn’t tell him that it was a female garment. :)

    Would still be large.. but you might have more success taking it down a size than starting from scratch.

  3. Megan

    Let’s see…among our favorite past costumes: person being eaten by a shark (Of course I had to work out how to make a ginormous shark that would fit over that Child) – Child wears swimsuit and goggles/snorkle, shark had glow-in-the-dark teeth thanks to glowing fabric paint; very cool ghost made with layers of cheese cloth with glow-sticks arranged underneath so the whole thing glowed green (would possible work for radioactive something?); flashlight – using a sort of arrangement of a plastic flowerpot helmet with a tap light on the top (can you tell I was concerned about high visibility?); simple – draw a large version of a stamp on a square of cardboard to hang around his neck – he becomes First Class Male…

    Also you can tell Monkey that all the spies I knew either wore uniforms or wore simple suits and were rather overweight. Also one was balding (but very, very nice guy) Late husband was in intelligence so I knew a fair number. Boring though – he should definitely go for the Jason Bourne look instead!

  4. Karen

    My kids are Spy Kids fans. Don’t know if you saw any of them? They are Disney. They may have some costume ideas for you. I think most of them dressed in fitted, sleak, black attire with the totally cool black shades. Then of course there are the spy accesories like watches with a million gadgets, the cell phone, something that could pass as a future looking weapon. Seriosly, if you can’t find the movie I’ll ship you mine to borrow if you need some more ideas.
    If you are hard set on trench coats, you might find one at Land’s End. I think they have every coat under the sun and clouds.
    Good luck……I can tell you are going to need it. As far as the cleaning solution goes, mysteries like that happen all the time as my house. Sometimes it’s better not to know.

  5. KD @ A Bit Squirrelly

    That is just werid about the spill. I wish someone would not just stop at the spill, but do the mopping. That would be AWESOME. I added that tee shirt site to my favs. They are really neat!

    Oh and IDK about the spy thing…My kida re being Dorothy (I know I was SO excited) anda Mouse. Yep he wants to be a mouse. He is 2. That’s how he rolls.

  6. Jess

    Any costume involving a Threadless tee is a good one. :)

  7. Linda

    Mime, my daughter wants to be a mime even though I told her that means she can’t talk the entire time she’s in costume (hmmmm, maybe it isn’t such a bad idea after all). I just can’t find a black and white striped shirt. Time is running out….

  8. Stefanie

    I can’t wait to see Chickie’s costume!

    Also, whenever there’s a Mystery Spill over here, I blame the cats. They are ninja and sneaky like that.

  9. Naomi in Ohio

    Gap has boys’ trenchcoats (online) but they’re a pretty penny…. Maybe Burlington Coat??

  10. Laura

    My favorite year was when my son proclaimed he wanted to be a “tree ghost” for Halloween. To which I replied “….?”

  11. getsheila

    Oh fine, give us a link to fabulous T-shirt that is COMPLETELY SOLD OUT.


  12. Karen

    Has Monkey ever heard of Sherlock Holmes? Get him one of those tweed hats and big magnifying glass, that could be considered ‘spyey looking”, right?

    the best costumes we had when my kids were young were a pirate, raggedy ann, and a witch The witch costume won 1st prize in a costume contest at the local bank.

  13. Kate

    My 8 year-old is going as bacon and eggs, the world’s greatest meal. His best friend is going as buttered toast.

  14. annette

    I wonder if he is a spy, if he could figure out the floor mystery?

  15. Amy

    Sorry – I’m not help. I’m still trying to figure out how to make Sweetie’s stick of butter costume NOT look like she’s a french fry. But that Sherlock Holmes idea is a great one! :)

  16. Liz

    When you find out who tried to clean your floor, can you send them to my house? Thanks!

  17. Stephanie

    Sydney is going as a zombie…we bought some clothes cheap at Goodwill and are going to shread them. She won’t let me put any fake blood or cuts on her…she thinks that’s too gross…hopefully, she’ll let me mess her hair up and make the clothes look like they’ve been buried 6 feet under, at least…

    Anyway…it’s a cheap costume and really has some possibilities, if the child is the least bit cooperative. ;-)

  18. Lauren

    My husband, who hates Halloween, always went to school as an undercover agent, in his regular clothes. He thought he was very clever.

  19. Emily

    How about Harry Potter?

  20. Half Assed Kitchen

    My son just decided to be a moose. I’m trying to figure out how to swing that without paying $79 for the costume.

  21. Jan

    Dirty laundry.

    Costume: wrinkled/rumpled clothes + laundry basket over head.

    You’re welcome!

    (My kids are going as a dalmatian dog [Munchkin] and a fire truck [Little Dude].)

  22. Robin

    Maybe he could be an animorph–half boy, half animal–sort of like his sister’s costume.

  23. Daisy

    In today’s economic crisis, Monkey could go as Double 0 3 1/2, Savings Bond, James’ half brother. Now there’s a spy for today’s world.

  24. Randi

    Toad and Monkey apparently both have issues with Halloween. Two years ago he wanted to go as Mario, which wasn’t TOO terrible to put together. Then last year he wanted to go as Link (Legend of Zelda), which we couldn’t do at the time so we compromised and got a teenage mutant ninja turtle. This year we’ve sucked it up and are working on a Zelda costume. Randi doesn’t sew, so it’s getting interesting.

    How about Ash or one of the human characters from Pokemon? Or Robin?

  25. sb

    Search for Boys trench coat on ebay (I just looked for you and they have some).

    And I think that spies also wear black turtlenecks and tight black pants (I generally think, “What would I want George Clooney to wear if he were . . . ?” and carry rope and cool gadgets and watches you can talk into.

  26. zandor

    That angel/devil costume sounds neat. I don’t have any ideas on how to help with the coat/other costue ideas. Sorry.

  27. dgm

    I second the commenter who suggested Sherlock Holmes. And I’m sure it’s much easier to find a Sherlock Holmes cape in a boys size 7 than a trenchcoat.


  28. HeatherB in MO

    I don’t have any costume ideas for you but I do have a suggestion for Amy and her stick of butter dilemna. Wrap part in aluminum foil and make the tablespoon markings on it. Should clear up any confusion

  29. EmmaC

    Oh, I wanted to be a spy FOREVER when I was a kid! Checking out the SpyKids costumes is a good suggestion. If Monkey wants to say “undercover” maybe you could equip him with a tool belt or tool box of some sort, containing things like magnifying glasses, fingerprint powder, invisible ink, a spiral bound notebook, rope, etc.

  30. Moogie

    You might want to look at ebay to see if they have anything. I have also found a lot of things for costumes at Goodwill. Even if the coat is a little bigger…it might just work.

  31. carolyn

    One year I went as a black eyed pea. I blacked out one eye with some type of eye makeup from the halloween store. Then I used black tape to form a letter “p” on my plain white t-shirt. Voila – black eyed P.

    Sinmple, easy and funny.

  32. Mamacita

    Mir, what is this “cleaning fluid” of which you speak? I thought kitchen floors were SUPPOSED to be crunchy!

  33. meghann

    As for the floor- gnomes.

  34. StephLove

    My son and I are at odds about his costume. He wants a scary costume this year for the first time (unless you count the sheet-over-the-head-with-eye-holes-cut-out ghost at age 4). I’m okay with that in theory but the bloody zombie costume he picked from a catalogue just seems too much for a 7 year old. Last year he was a cloud and the year before the sun. Sigh. I kind of want that innocent kid back.

    Partner is amused I’m the one more strict here because I’m a horror fan and in fact used to teach a college English class on horror. But I think that’s WHY. I take this stuff seriously.

  35. Em

    I really hope your puddle was blue because what I am thinking is that other things can sometimes smell like ammonia which smells like cleaning fluid. Gross things. And that is an even worse mystery to figure out.

    My daughter wants to be the same as Chickie! Before you go nuts building it, we were able to buy the costume at iParty. It goes by the name Double Trouble. Beware though they have similar costumes for older kids that are way too sexy. What is with that anyway? Sexy costumes for preteens and teens. The hell? /tangent. I couldn’t find the link on iParty (which I had a 20% off coupon for) but here is an amazon link to show it exists and maybe you wouldn’t mind spending $21 on it:

    For Monkey, I have no ideas but I loved the First Class Male idea.

  36. jennielynn

    The floor thing has me a little freaked out as well. The ghost of a cleaning lady, perhaps? If you ever figure it out, please let me know. This will haunt me. (Get it? Haunt?)

    I’m not so good at costumes. In fact I am shamelessly stealing Monkey’s costume from last year for Big Red. (You gave permission. I promise.) Maybe Monkey could do a short- sleeved button white button down shirt, loose tie and black slacks with black high tops. You know, Chuck from the TV show? He’s a sort-of secret agent, right?

    This is why I steal your ideas. On the other hand, I did do a credible Sarah Palin for Drama Queen this year. Black suit, pearls and a string of dead teddy bears for her to carry, along with a button that reads, “Ask Me About My Pipeline” and “Russia’s In My Back Yard!”

  37. ellbee

    I wish I could help you, but the only person I make Halloween costumes for are myself and my husband. And most of his only work becuase he’s 6’7″, so I don’t think they’d work for Monkey. We’ve done the Sta-Puft Marshmallow Man, Hunter S. Thompson, Igloohead (made-up superhero, don’t ask…) and this past year, he went as a Shark With A Fricken Laser Beam On His Head. We were contempating going as old school robots this year…cardboard box painted silver with knobs and dials all over…arms made from dryer ducts…maybe Monkey would like something like that?

  38. Audrey R

    Delurking to comment on the Monkey costume situation.

    Someone else mentioned going as Ash from Pokemon. How about just a regular Pokemon trainer (so the outfit doesn’t have to be too specific)? I’m almost 25 and my friends and I have (and still!) use this option as a default costume from time to time when costume parties pop up (we were in middle school/early high school when Pokemon first came out). Jeans, a plain t-shirt, maybe a vest/sleeveless jacket over the top and a hat. If he’s got some plastic pokeball toys, you can use those, or buy styrofoam balls and paint them to look like pokeballs and attach them to a belt. A mini squirt bottle filled with water can be hooked onto the belt to be a Potion (an item in the game that heals your pokemon). And if he’s got a plush pokemon, he can carry that along (I think they sell cheap little ones at Walmart and Target if he doesn’t). And an on old backpack can be taken along to complete the ‘traveling pokemon trainer’ look (or be used to hold candy!). Instant pokemon trainer!

  39. Bonnie

    An easy cool costume is a magic eight ball. Dress all in black with a triangle on your back that says “My sources say yes”.

  40. Brigitte

    If Monkey still likes Lego stuff, maybe egg-cartons could be painted and glued to his clothes to look like a Lego dude?

    And I think Em had the same idea I did as to the mystery puddle, but I was going to go the “freak-Mir-out” way and suggest it was an ammonia-laden puddle of weasel urine. But now I won’t. >;-D

  41. Lori

    Daisy’s comment (#23) almost made me spit my coffee. My name is Bond…Savings Bond.

    Sorry, I’m working this morning.

    If Monkey’s not into Star Wars, I’ve got no ideas for you. Little guy (4) & dad are going as Jedi Knights while daughter (8) & I are going as Witches. (Yes, the kids want us to dress up like them – I think they like the control.)

  42. Lindy

    I was always a last-minute costumer. I dressed up like my dad one year, which is kind of lame and not near as awesome as Shark With A Freakin Lazer Beam On Its Head, but it was a hoot nonetheless. And really easy.

    So it might be a stretch but what if Monkey went as Otto. Jeans, glasses, button up short sleeve shirt that’s way too big but tucked in anyway (ha, sorry, memories). Put a Nikon F in one hand and a Twinkie in the other, just in case he runs into Ted Kennedy.

  43. Lindy

    And I just read Joshilyn’s comment… you can get a black canvas Dickies shirt at Walmart for $15. A big shirt like that would be pretty trenchcoat-like.

  44. Fran

    I confess…….I poured the cleaner, in the kitchen, without malice…..;-D Actually I’d look for some rodent with bladder control issues

  45. Cele

    The comments are amazing, but the issue is a trench coat… go to salvation army, goodwill, or a consignment store and find one to cut to size, or better yet let it trail.

  46. Little Bird

    I am old enough to know better, but I STILL dress up for Halloween. This year I’ll be a barfly. Not exactly kid friendly though. So try famous artists (I was Dali on year, I think I was 8), or maybe there’s a way to make a costume that is a play on words. My cousin was a spy one year, he wore a black jacket, suit-like and padded the shoulders, wore a black fedora and finished it off with black sunglasses. Yes, he wore pants and shoes- all black.

  47. Damsel

    I think I’m scarred for life about Halloween. One year my school had a fall festival play, and I was a pilgrim. My mom made the costume. I was a damn pilgrim for three or four years running because we always went to a church thing and couldn’t wear REAL costumes.

    But I’m not bitter or anything.

  48. Barbara

    The only way he will accept your idea is if he thinks he thought of it himself. If you have a western-wear store in your area, some of the coats sold to cowboys have a trencoat-look to them. Or how about a black ‘raincoat’?

    Eliminating Otto from suspicion, I’d bank on one of the children, in the night, but a reason alludes me. Just that once said puddle was made, they (he) couldn’t figure out how to best resolve it. Or, Dear Mir, the sleep thing – you?

  49. Heidi

    I love it. I personally am not a big fan of halloween (i know), but being that I have been invited to a few parties and just want to go out for some fun with friends. I think I will also go as a spy. No muss, no fuss. (thanks for the idea)

  50. Kris

    Women’s small (or juniors) London Fog-type coat will serve as a child-sized trenchcoat, often found at Salvation Army for mere pennies on the dollar. (Ok, the last one I got was about $2.50 and that wasn’t even on 50% off day.)

    As for Chickie’s situation – get thee to the dollar store! I recently found devil horn HAIRCLIPS that Bug needs for her “simple costume” (we do two costumes – one easy one for trips to stuff like the pumpkin patch where they need to run around, and another for actual Halloween that is a more elaborate one with special fx make up).

    Me, I’m just going as a zombie. No make up needed.

  51. Valerie Brandt

    Found you through my daughter–such a mystery!

    As a professional theatre person who spent my child-raising years saying “The word sew is not in my vocabulary.” I suggest thrift stores. Go with an open mind. Look for the correct sillouette. You want a trenchcoat–look for a jacket/ coat with the right shape–male/female/adult/child/color does not matter. Or the Sherlock Holmes look [what I would go for] a wide coat [I actually have one–it was originally my Mom’s during her pregnancies in the ’50s, and mine in the ’70’s-’90–and if long enough, cut off the bottom to make the cape. Cut off the sleeves to form the hat. Stitch witchery is great–and time saving as well! If you can find bucram at you fabric shop, use it for a hat base. You cut it and form the shape. Attach it by using water–it self-glues–and fabric can be added in the same way! Most of all enjoy–don’t stress out over costumes or your kids will, too. If you are relaxed, then they will usually follow suit. [I have been known to put together prize-winning costumes between getting home from school for the day, and going to the carnival or party that evening!]

  52. Moggy

    Love your blog… I like the idea of a Cereal Killer. Dress all in black, glue little cereal boxes all over. Each box has a plastic knife stuck in it. (i’d glue the knife to the boxes). And you got a cereal killer.

  53. mama speak

    dressing like Otto cracked me up. I’m still giggling. Don’t think anyone at school would get it, but damn it’s funny.

    I thought the pokemon/pokeman??? suggestion was awesome. Easy, something he’s into, see if you can get him to think he came up with it.

    The puddle; I think you’re sleep cleaning Mir. Stress. I’m sure of it, so come to my house so that while you get to de-stress you can sleep clean here. Please!

  54. Jennifer Suarez

    I didn’t read all the other comments, but in case someone didn’t already mention it, if you have an H&M clothing store, they carry trench coats for kids. Or perhaps a halloween costume store – that should have SOMETHING that will work.

  55. Heather

    Do you have Burlington Coat Factory down there? I picked up my son a trench coat a few years ago in a size 4/5.

  56. Mom101

    We should get together because we generally wake up to a self-contained puddle of dog pee these days. If we combined that with the cleaner, well we might be onto something!

  57. Andrea

    My 8-yr-old son is going as Indiana Jones. The pre-made costume was so paper-thin and cheaply made that we instead constructed our own. He has khaki pants, an old brown belt of his dad’s (we punched more holes in it), a cowboy hat from the dollar store with the brim trimmed down to 2.5 (per fedora recommendations online) & trimmed with ribbon from a craft store, white button up shirt & faux leather jacket from Target, official Indiana Jones foam whip, and brown kraft bag with a color Indiana Jones logo taped on. Now, the shirt & jacket he will wear both before and after Halloween, so we’ll get more mileage that way.
    I had scoured Goodwill and TJ Maxx for the hat and jacket without any luck, but those are good places to check.

  58. Kate G

    costume suggestion for a boy who only kinda sorta wants to dress up: golfer

    dress as if you were hitting the greens and bring along a golf club! could even have your ‘caddy’ (daddy?) carry the golf bag that holds all the candy!

  59. Audi

    Don’t know if if you have figured out the costume for Monkey yet but I have found some great ideas at in there Halloween section. I think my favorite it the Tricky Gnome.

  60. Mara

    Mir I have a 3/4 length trench from the Gap, it would probably convert to a full-length coat for a kid. Might be worth investigating…

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