I will never forget our first Halloween in the Foothills. We live in a lovely neighborhood with few young children, and most homes have long driveways. Our neighborhood was scary on Halloween night, but only because it was dark and deserted.

Ghosts and witches wouldn't be ringing our doorbell. Neither princesses nor pirates would appreciate the glowing jack-o-lanterns on our porch. All the Snickers and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in our candy bowl would go untouched.

We looked on the bright side. If we didn't need to pass out candy at our home, then Mike and I could spend the whole night walking around with the boys. We just had to figure out where to go.

We decided to try Shadow Hills, a nice community near North First Avenue and East Orange Grove Road. We found what we were looking for: decorated, festive homes, shorter driveways and relatively flat streets, and, most importantly, lots of trick-or-treaters.

We had a great time visiting the homes and checking out the other trick-or-treaters' costumes. The boys' pace slowed, and they were eager to take a close look at all their loot, so we drove home.

I felt like we had cheated a little by driving into a different neighborhood. We weren't the only people with this plan though, and the Shadow Hills residents were very welcoming.

So with that experience under our belts, all we had to do to prepare for Halloween this year was find the right costumes. That costume search, however, was particularly challenging.

Preston, Griffin and I headed first to Spirit, a temporary Halloween store on North Oracle Road, just north of the Tucson Mall. Hundreds of masks, costumes and props lined the walls.

We had too many choices, and many of them weren't age-appropriate, such as a psycho clown mask and a "Hellraiser" pinhead mask that Preston, who is 7, found fascinating.

After finding slim pickings in two other stores, we walked into Gymboree. As the boys tried on some costumes, I chatted with the manager. I learned that many stores had stocked their costumes in June. That explained why I had the feeling we were shopping at the "last minute" even though it was only Oct. 13.

Griffin, who is 4, chose an adorable junior chef costume, and Preston picked a cool firefighter outfit. That night, Mike and I ordered our costumes on the Internet. Mission accomplished.

So if you see a chef, firefighter and some M&Ms on the loose, give us a shout. Happy Halloween!

E-mail Kelley Helfand at foothills@azstarnet.com