President Obama is trying to figure out how to get the health care reform bill passed, Rush Limbaugh is trying to figure out if USA Volleyball has a team for sale, and Playboy subscribers are trying to figure out how to get a refund for the current issue. I’ll gladly trade places with all of them if they can figure out the perfect Halloween costume for my daughter, because I can’t.

Last year for Halloween, when she was all of 83 days old, she went as a pumpkin. It was a hooded, full-body orange fleece suit that probably felt much the same way an oven does after preheating to 475 degrees. She was too young and polite to say anything, but on that Indian summer day she was probably less than thrilled to be participating in the Celtic pagan festival of Samhain dressed as a baked stuffed gourd.

Deciding what her costume should be this year is keeping me up at night. At 14 months old, my little girl has developed a distinct way of expressing herself. She has a handful of words, none of which are used, however, when a hat of any kind is placed on her head because she has learned that a full-blown tantrum says so much more. Finding the perfect Halloween combination of cute and clever without headgear is trickier than it sounds.

The pressure to come up with a unique costume is also great. When I was growing up, parents dressed their kids in plastic masks and superhero costumes out of a box and snapped a few poorly lit Polaroids for posterity. But these days — with unlimited clothing and accessories available online, plus photo software and services such as iPhoto, Photoshop, Snapfish and Shutterfly and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter — there’s increased competition to be creative and no excuse not to well-document a child’s every fart, not to mention Halloween costume. I can’t just zip my daughter into a taco outfit and be done with it.

My husband hasn’t been a great Halloween brainstorming partner, but that’s no real surprise. We went to a costume party last weekend and he wanted to dress as a 1980s redneck with a mullet wig and a Miller High Life T-shirt. It wouldn’t have been too much of a costume though, considering he already owns one of them and the other he almost could have gotten away with without the prop.

Plenty of adorable toddler costumes exist. A peapod, piglet, bunny, princess or cat, for instance. But they’re all just fancier versions of the pumpkin, and they all involve some sort of headdress. The adult-humor costumes for babies are no good, either, like the lobster in the pot, sushi (with a ginger and wasabi headband), Colonel Sanders, a Mexican wrestler or Michael Jackson. I’m sure I’ll inadvertently screw my daughter up emotionally at some point in the future, so I don’t see a point in purposely dressing her up now as a therapy session waiting to happen.

One year for Halloween when I was little I went as a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. I wasn’t into football nor did I live in Texas. But I coveted a set of pom poms like the Balloon Boy covets a set of new parents. My mom would only buy me one, but I made the most of it. I wrote a cheer for trick or treating and recited it into a cassette tape recorder, practicing and playing it over and over. I never actually performed it in public, but in the event of a cheering emergency, I was prepared.

Another year I dressed as a hobo, although it’s not something I would consider for my daughter since it might be inauspicious to dress her as a homeless person so early in life. There was also the time I went as a punk rocker, with my hair colored green and sprayed into spikes, sparkly eye shadow that stretched from my eyelids to my ears and an off-the-shoulder splatter-paint sweatshirt. Nowadays that’s not so much a costume as how the gay kid on “Glee” dresses for school.

My sister once went as a hooker for Halloween when we were kids. I got in trouble because I called her a slut. The distinction was slight, but we were both aware of it. Either way, my baby girl will be dressed as neither.

I’m currently leaning toward having her be Dorothy because I found a pair of tiny sequined ruby-red slippers and a blue gingham dress. Never mind that she won’t be seeing “The Wizard of Oz” until she’s old enough to drive (some of those scenes rival “The Shining” in scariness). At this point, with Halloween nine days away, if she doesn’t like it she can click her heels three times and go as a pumpkin again next year.

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