Full of Disguises

Each October, as Halloween nears, my children pull out their favorite holiday books. Substitute Creature by Chris Gall has become a family favorite. The story is about a substitute teacher that has come to bring order to a class that is out-of-control. The substitute shares tales of children who have misbehaved and the dreadful things that have resulted from their actions to deter his current class. And it is eventually revealed that the substitute used to be mischievous himself when he was his students’ age which results in him having to wear his costume until he can redeem himself. And redeem himself he does. It’s a story of hope, accepting yourself—flaws and all, and living a life you feel good about. It’s about seeing the error of your ways, making amends, and finding your way back home.  My kids love it. We read it almost every night.

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Not for the sinister decorations or gore that some may find thrilling. Instead I like the imagination it conjures up and creativity is exposes in all who participate. It never fails, each year I’ll see someone in an original costume that makes me wonder why didn’t I think of that?  Or decorations that pull me.

A Halloween costume can be very revealing, and not in the literal sense (though it can be that too). You can tell who has put effort and thought into their costume and who has not. It allows us to hide behind make-up, a hairdo, outfit or mask. For one night we become someone else. It can be freeing.

It reminds me of the book. How many of us are comfortable in your own skin? How many of us wish we were someone else, even if only temporary?  How do we disguise our true selves? Do some wear disguises each day without knowing it? Are disguises worn to protect ourselves from others? Or protect ourselves from knowing our inner most selves? It can be scary to think about.

The good news is there is hope, just like in the story. As we get comfortable with our true selves, any disguises we are wearing more easily come off. It’s accepting yourself as you are—flaws and all and living the life you were intended. It’s about finding your way back home (perhaps figuratively, but it’s true), living a life free of disguises.

Are you comfortable in your own skin, and sharing your true self with others? Or are you hiding behind a disguise like so many of us?

Happy Halloween.

The Pumpkin Patch

Our tradition of going to the pumpkin patch each October started after our children were born. Prior to this the idea of getting in a car and driving a long distance to get a pumpkin or Christmas Tree had always seemed silly. Why go the distance when I can just get the pumpkin at the grocery store. I know. I know. How very practical, right?

When we first went to a pumpkin patch, I felt like I had been transported. Hundreds of families were all around, grabbing wheel barrows to cart their pumpkins around in, there were hay rides, a petting zoo, a corn maze and all the wonderful smells of Autumn. After being given a hot apple cider, my husband and I took the scene all in. I felt alive. I was in the moment, watching my children enjoy the pumpkin patch and fully experiencing it the wonder that was going on around me.

How often do we get to make these memories with our very busy lives? It felt good to make the time for this special adventure.

Going to the pumpkin patch has become an annual tradition for us. There is nothing new per se about the trip that happens each year, but it’s quality time we get to have together. It’s precious time in that we’ll only get to do this as a family for so long.

I take my cider and sip on it slowly as I try to make the moment last longer. It really is a special time.

What special fall traditions do you and your family partake in?

Fruits of Your Labor

Our deck started to show some wear-and-tear over the summer. While the thought of delaying the project was appealing, the inevitability of replacing the deck sooner than later became apparent. My husband decided to take the task on, carefully determining what tools he would need, amount and size of the material, and came up with a plan to build the new deck.

After working on the project for several weeks, he was recently able to start laying down some of the boards. At the end of his second day we were admiring the job he had done so far. He shared that working on the project felt very rewarding because as he completed tasks, he could see the result of his work. He continued sharing that as a parent it’s not always easy to see the results of the foundation we are laying and knowing if what we’re trying to teach is working, and if we will ever be able to see tangible results. I stopped him there and said, “You just gave me my next blog entry!”

As parents, we often are looking for confirmation that we are doing a good job that we are doing right by our children and we’re teaching them, as we should. With the amount of judgment that goes on and everyone having an opinion, we can often feel like our parenting skills, no matter how thorough, how diligent or well intended, aren’t measuring up.

My sons and I were in a coffee shop recently getting a snack when my youngest had a meltdown. The food item he wanted was sold out, and nothing else would do. He quickly went from being excited to dismay to shouting and tears. As I worked to remain calm, my mind was racing with the thought why do you have to do this right now in public? Everyone must think I’m a terrible parent! I could feel anger simmering inside and knew nothing would quill him, and we would have to leave the store immediately. When I told my younger son we would have to leave without him getting anything to eat it only made him more upset. I was angry and embarrassed. He was angry and disappointed. Once we were outside, I asked my son how else we could have solved the problem. Him getting angry and upset only made us leave the shop. It didn’t get him what he wanted. I also reflected on myself, was there some other way I could have better handled that situation? I asked my son the question, “So, what do you think? Is there some other way we could have handled that? Sometimes places we go aren’t going to have what we want.” He seemed to consider this for a minute and then shared some problem-solving techniques he heard in school (Kelso’s Rules): take a break, talk about it, and take a deep breath. I stopped him there. “Those are good ideas,” I said. I also shared some insight with both my boys, “Sometimes Mom feels like she is being judged by others and it can make Mom feel embarrassed and angry. That’s Mom’s issue, not yours. I’m sorry I got angry.” It wasn’t fun to admit, but it felt good to be honest with my kids.

Like my husband pointed out, I’m not sure we’ll ever know the full fruits of our labors of being parents. We won’t necessarily know if we are truly successful in fully teaching our children everything we’re trying to, but it feels good when you see a glimmer of your efforts sinking in, your children making choices that they feel good about, and instances where your child makes a decision that allows for a positive outcome.

How do handle situation where you feel like you’re being judged?

How are you experiencing the fruits of your labor?

Fall into Comfort

Fall is one of my favorite times of year. The change in the weather. The change in the color of leafs. The familiar smells that I’ve missed since last year. There is a familiarity to it. It feels like an old friend returning. It’s a warm, comforting feeling. Almost like someone is taking care of you, and wants you to take in all the beauty of the season. It’s also a reminder that this comforting lull will eventually get replaced with the holiday madness that ensues following Halloween.

I’m reminded that I need to take a moment and allow myself the chance to soak it all in, and let the blanket of Fall wrap around me. I need to allow myself time to relax, sit back and enjoy the change that is going on. I need to be present with my children and enjoy this very special time of year. One that isn’t packed with to-dos or driven by presents and wants.

I need to rest and prepare for the busy season that is ahead.

I passed a store selling shepherd’s pie recently and the smell drew me in. It was comfort food. Just what I wanted and needed. I look forward to enjoying these coming weeks and the Fall treasures I will experience: pumpkin patches, leafs changing color, and smells of apple cider and pumpkin. It’s a comfort I only seem to notice and embrace easily during this time of year. I’m grateful for it, look forward to it and need it. I know I’ll miss it when it’s gone, but take reassurance in knowing Fall will return like the faithful friend that it is next year.

With the stress and anxiety with have in our busy lives where do you find comfort? What are your favorite things about Fall?