Pumpkin Carving

What are your Halloween traditions?

Pumpkin carving is one of ours. When my kids were young, my husband and I would carve a pumpkin for them. As they’ve grown older they are starting to carve the pumpkins more on their own. It’s one of those moments for me, as a parent, that registers as special every time we get together for this tradition. It’s a passing of time, but so enjoyable to see how my kids are growing and becoming young adults, and how they interact with their cousins, and other family members, and friends present. It’s something we look forward to every year.

Trick-or-treating and dressing up for Halloween is something my kids seem to be outgrowing, but I don’t see them outgrowing our pumpkin carving tradition (or at least anytime soon). We all just have too much fun doing it together.

What are your family’s Halloween traditions? Which one(s) do you think will last beyond their childhood?

Lessons from the Corn Maze

Have you ever been lost?

It’s not a good feeling to be lost in an unfamiliar setting. Except, perhaps, when that unfamiliar setting is a corn maze.

We went to our favorite pumpkin patch with other family members to pick out pumpkins, snap pictures, and drink some cider. The kids wanted to do the corn maze. We’ve had varying degrees of success with corn mazes. When they were younger, we’d accompany the kids. As the children grew older they wanted to show us they could do the maze on their own. What’s the harm? we’d thought. One year four kids went in, three came out. We waited, and waited, and right around the time we were going to go in we saw my son walking through the corn. Not the maze. The corn. He had gotten so frustrated by the dead ends he’d decided he would make his own way out.

In our most recent trip, my nephew and brother-in-law went into the maze a few minutes after my boys and their older cousin had entered. We were surprised to seem them re-emerge before the older kids did. “Did you see the others?” I asked. He shook his head no. Hmmm. I wasn’t too concerned because I knew the kids would figure a way out — even if it meant walking out through the corn.

The kids finally emerged. They were laughing and at ease. “Did you all get lost?” I asked. “Yea,” my older son commented, “there were so many dead ends.” The kids walked on, un-phased by the situation they had come from. They left the maze behind without thought and walked towards wheelbarrows filled with pumpkins.

I thought about how often in life we can feel lost — the first day of school, moving to a new place, starting a new job, becoming a parent — and how you have to quickly figure out how to acclimate to make it through any discomfort you feel. There is always a way to work through being uncomfortable. Whether it’s taking a straight path (walking through the corn) or being willing to let yourself be lost for a while knowing you’ll eventually figure things out (like my kids and their cousin not letting the dead ends defeat them or dampen their experience).

How have you handled times when you felt lost? How are you helping your child acclimate when they do?

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

What’s something funny your child has said?

My earliest memory of my kids saying something funny was after my youngest was born. After a week at home, his older brother asked my husband and I, “When are we going to recycle him?” We couldn’t help but laugh. We loved that our son recognized the importance of recycling, but found it funny that he was ready to send his brother to the bin and go back to being an only child. ūüėä Needless to say, we explained you don’t recycle humans.

More recently my youngest has been delivering some pretty classic lines. On the first day of middle school I picked him up at the end of the day. The parking lot was full of parents picking up their kids. My son came towards me. “How was your day?” I asked. “Today was SOOOOO long. I’m exhausted,” he paused then continued, “Well, time to go see my therapist.” It was true he was going to see his therapist after school, but that was a coincidence. I burst out laughing when he said what he said, one, because how many of us have had days where we’d love to see a therapist following? And secondly because he said it so that every other parent could hear. They looked at me, then him. He responded to my laughing and the parents looks, “What? I am going to see my therapist.” You have to love these moments when my son doesn’t have a filter. The parents smiled looked at me. I shrugged, smiled and confirmed we were heading to see his therapist. I smiled the whole drive there.

Several weeks into the school year my son had another memorable moment. His class is working to build a tiny house for people in the neighborhood. They had some construction experts come in to walk the kids through the design and get them started on the project. My son shared that he saw one of the men while he was on the bus heading home. “He was smoking,” he said and then made a face and continued, “Not a good look.” Oh my goodness, I couldn’t help but laugh again. I get it, you see someone in one setting and assume you know who they are, and then see them in another context and it challenges what you thought you know. Yet my son was succinct in his observation — right, wrong, or indifferent. I wonder what he’ll say next.

What has your child said that made you laugh?

First Concert

What was the first concert you went to?

Mine was Duran Duran. I went with two friends, and our moms. I wanted to go with just my friends, but there was no way my mom was going to let her then 13 year old daughter go without adult supervision. I wanted to see the band so bad, I didn’t care.

My oldest is a big fan of several YouTube stars. This particular YouTube star (or assemble) came to town and the minute my son heard they were having a show he was begging to go. I, like my mother, was not going to let him go unsupervised. I asked if he had other friends he wanted to go with. “Nah, not really,” he replied, “Dad can take me.” Phew! I thought. Thinking I’d gotten out of something I didn’t necessarily want to do, and a little concerned about the content of the show (was it going to be offensive to females? I have to admit I wasn’t familiar with this particular YouTube star). We agreed he would pay for his ticket and his father would attend.

Of course, plans change and my husband was called out of town for work. I was going to be going to the show after all. My son was very disappointed he had to go with me. Again I was trying to figure out if it was because he was concerned about the show’s content and how I would take it, or if it was because he sees me as the more embarrassing parent. I think it was a little of both. ūüôā

We got to the show early to get our seats. I promised my son I would do my best not to embarrass him. It was an interesting crowd. The star is probably in his mid-late 20s. The fans ranged in age, though skewed younger. They were passionate about their affection for this guy. The show included elements from content on his channel, and did some parent-splaining (where younger people explain things to us old people ūüėĀ) to help us better follow the show. There were moments that made me cringe (body humor/sexual reference that was more immature than insulting), and others that made me respect the star (he and his co-star shared personal stories and encouraged loving yourself as you are, and appreciating the gift of life) — they really used their platform well — both to entertain and inspire.

My son was watching me like a hawk throughout the show and would periodically ask, “Mom, why are you making that face?” I didn’t know I was making a face, but told him I was fine and not to worry about me. If I thought anything was that bad we’d talk about it after the show.

After 90 minutes the show concluded and we headed home. My son was on a high from the show. He talked about the crowd, and the energy, and how much he enjoyed it. I reminded him that he and I have had fun a few times together (maybe I was trying to remind him I’m okay to hang with from time to time — e.g. I’m not that embarrassing). ūüėä “You’re right, Mom, we have had some fun,” he says. And we left it at that. How cool is it that I got to go with my son to his first show?

Have you taken your child to a concert or show? How did you handle it if you weren’t necessarily looking forward the entertainment?

Costumes You Can’t Buy on Amazon

What’s the Halloween costume you’ve worn or made that you’re most proud of and why?

Growing up, I often struggled with what to be for Halloween. As an adult, I wish I could say I was creative with my costumes when I was younger, but my memory tells me otherwise. I was a ballerina one year (not because I fancied being one, but because I already had the outfit from ballet class), a princess or fairy (I recall¬†wearing a blue dress that I loved) another,¬†a funny man one year (I dressed like this because my parents had a silly mask that consisted of glasses with a big nose and a mustache. My dad lent me a hat and a coat that were too big to go along with the outfit. It wasn’t because I wanted to be a funny man, but because we couldn’t come up with anything else), and there may have been a cat or mouse in the mix. My costumes for the most part had little imagination¬†and were pretty uninspired.

My husband, on the other hand, grew up with homemade costumes. One year, he and his brothers went as the Fruit of the Loom guys. I was impressed! I wanted my kids to have memories of better, more inspired costumes. For each of my sons first Halloweens, I put them in white onesies, black pants,¬†used a red oversized scarf and tied it around their waist and put a pirate hat on their head. It was super simple, and easy to take on/off (changing diapers and clothes was a synch). They liked reading¬†the Frog and Toad books, so one year¬†they went as Frog and Toad.¬†I thought, ‘What can I do that’s easy?‘¬†Inspiration hit me again —¬†I went to Goodwill and found clothes similar to what Frog and Toad would wear. Then I got¬†them wool hats, added¬†two large¬†white puff¬†balls on each cap adorned with small crescent-shaped pieces of black felt (with stick-on back)¬†for the eyes. The kids could take off the hat whenever they wanted — and didn’t seem to mind when we kept asking them to pose together for pictures. ūüôā¬†There were several years where a store came to the rescue. I did attempt to add to the costume. My youngest was a spider one year.¬†He loved jumping with excitement, so I decided he¬†wouldn’t be a¬†regular spider but¬†instead a jumping spider.¬†I set out to¬†make him a spider web on cardboard and use silver glitter for the web, and spelled Jumping Spider (Charlotte’s Web inspiration) in the web. My son loved the spider costume, but not the web. Of course that is what I’d worked on for more time than I’d like to admit. I had attempted to use elastic arm bands so my son could wear the web. My son thought they were really uncomfortable. I got him to wear the web for maybe a minute. Oh well. We’ve had more and less inspired over the years. Some were things the kids loved (Lightning McQueen) or interested in (Ninja, Star Wars), but this year my youngest had a more unique request.

He has had a love of geography that has grown over the last year. He has numerous books on maps, and atlases. When I asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween this year, he said, “a map!” I loved his inspiration but wondered, how am I going to help pull¬†this one off?¬†I found some costume ideas for ‘the world’ online, including globes, but my son was clear “I don’t want to be a globe of the world, I want to be a map.” I came up empty on Amazon. It was clear. There was not going to be a ‘store-to-the-rescue’ kind of costume. I was going to have to put on my creative thinking cap and figure out how we were going to pull off this costume. I ended up finding fabric¬†that’s pattern was a¬†map of the world (and a yard in length — perfect). Then I thought, can I find him a fun ‘worldly’ hat? Or something that looks ‘international’? I went to a costume store and found him a German hat (green with red feather), and a table decoration with flags from around the world. I thought, ‘we’ve got enough for a costume!‘ I didn’t know how it was going to come together, but knew we could figure it out. I got some material for backing for the map fabric, and with my sister’s help, we transformed the map material into a cape of sorts (more like a wrap, but it works). Donned with his hat and flags, we had a costume.¬†I asked my son, “So, what are we going to say your costume is?” Before he could respond, I said, “Oh, I know you’ll be a Man of the World. That means you’re well-traveled and know a lot about the world.” My son quickly responded, “Mom, I’m not a man of the world, I’m a FAN of the world.” He was right, and I couldn’t help but smile.

There is no greater joy¬†then seeing your child be inspired. To see them envision what they want to be — even if it’s just for Halloween.

What does your child want to be this Halloween? How are you helping them achieve their vision for who they want to be?

To Grandma’s House You Go

What special memories do you have of your time with your grandparents?

Our boys are fortunate. They have two sets of very loving grandparents that they will get to visit with this summer. The good news is the grandparents love them and are eager to spend time with them (and thankfully in good health), the bad news is the grandparents live far away. Both sets are across the country.¬† We decided this year, our boys are old enough to visit both sets of grandparents by themselves. Sending my boys on a plane without us is one of the most stressful things I’ve done, but I know they are going towards people that love them a lot and can’t wait to see them.

While concerned about them while they travel to see their grandparents, I also worry about their behavior (and what it will be) once they get there. Will they be on their best behavior? Will they act up (talk back to Grandma and Grandpa, whine, complain, etc.)? What will Grandma and Grandpa do if (when) this happens?

Grandparents vary, right? Some just want to love on their grandchild(ren) — give them hugs, take them places and maybe buy them things. They are happy to spend time with them in whatever form. There are others that want the time spent together to be more meaningful — teaching values, morals, life lessons, etc.¬†One accepts the grandchild as they are. The other wants (or hopes)¬†to mold the grandchild. Some grandparents are a blend of both, and others nothing like what I’ve mentioned above. Most grandparents though do share one thing in common: they love their grandkids.

In preparation for their first trip, my husband and I,¬†assuming our kids would have their moments (e.g.¬†they would ‘act up’ at some point),¬†gave them some ground rules to help them (and their grandparents) enjoy their time together:

1. Don’t complain — if you don’t like what is being asked of you (wake up at a certain time, help with something, eat a new food, etc.)¬†either a) suggest an alternative politely *or* b) just do what is being asked (arguing will just delay the inevitable and make everyone miserable)

2. Ask upfront for permission on screen time — grandparents want to spend time with you, not your gadgets. Grandparents are not unreasonable, so ask them what screen time they can live with. Determining this upfront will help with heart ache later.

3. Suspend bathroom humor — Grandma and Grandpa will not find it nearly as¬†funny as you do

4. Have fun — there are so many neat things you get to do with Grandma and Grandpa — going fishing, swimming, eating ice cream, etc. — focus on what’s in front of you (the people, the place, the experience), not what you’re missing out on (e.g. another game of Madden Mobile or cartoon you’ve already seen a dozen times).

I am so thankful our boys have both sets of grandparents and can make memories with them. I know my boys will appreciate those memories much more when they are older.

Will my boys behave while their away?¬†I’m not as concerned with them behaving as I am with both my sons and their grandparents appreciating the opportunity they have to share wonderful memories together. I know I treasure memories I had with mine.

What special memories does your child have with their grandparents? How are they creating new memories together?

Let It Snow!

Do you like snow?

As a kid, I loved it. As an adult, I dread it. My favorite snow is the kind that sticks to the ground, but not to the street. In other words, snow that doesn’t slow me down.

With this being one of the busiest times of the year, snow seems like a really big inconvenience, but for my kids, it’s something different.¬†It means no school. It means they get to go outside and have a snowball fight. Snow, to them, means fun.

After dreading a pending storm,¬†I had to come to grips¬†with the reality, once again,¬†that I don’t control the weather. The snow is going to come when its going to come. And as much as I’d like for the snow to miss us, my kids are hoping just as hard that it doesn’t.

The snow came, the kids played and I couldn’t help but get caught up in their excitement over it. The snow forced me to pause, take a breath, and appreciate what was going on around me. Snow may be inconvenient, but it brings something else with it — beauty, joy and fun.

How do you make the most of things (like the weather) that inconvenience you during this busy time of year?

 

Summer’s Simple Pleasures

What is your favorite summer activity?  Camping, going on a picnic, or to the lake, riding bikes or something else?  Mine is always hosting or attending a BBQ.

There is just something about having good friends around you. Being about to relax and enjoy each other’s company. I treasure watching the kids playing in the yard–whether they are battling with water guns, chasing each other or playing in the sprinkler. It’s all so simple, and makes me so happy.

I equate the experience to when I saw my first fireflies during a warm summer evening decades ago. I realized it was special and I wanted it to last. And if it couldn’t last forever, I hoped it would happen again. That’s what summer BBQs are for me. They are one of those special moments I look forward to every year.

What summer activity does your family enjoy? Which of summer’s simple pleasures are special for you?

The Return of the Pause Button. Thanks Summer!

What are your best memories of the last day of school? About summer vacation?

Memories flood back for me: the excitement of the last day, field day activities, leaving school, starting swim team practice, riding bikes and hanging out with my friends. My kids are excited about school being over and things being more relaxed. There always seems to be a flurry of activity leading up to the end of school, it can be overwhelming to any parent trying to keep it all straight. I always take a deep breath and think ah, we made it when I pick up my kids on the last day of school.

We’re looking forward to warmer weather, more sunshine, and time to rest and just be. In our fast paced world, we sometimes need to hit the pause button. Summer is the pause button for our family.

How do you and your family relax during summer break?

I will be taking some time off to relax with family over the holidays and will be back in July. Happy Fourth!

Play Time and Letting Your Inner Child Reemerge

Has your child ever gotten a present you couldn’t help but play with?

My youngest son asked for a remote control plane for Christmas. It seemed a little old for him to ask for, but he was adamant that it was something he really wanted. He was thrilled when he received it on Christmas morning, but he hasn’t played with it much since. It’s not because he doesn’t like it, it’s because his father has commandeered the plane for himself. It’s almost like he can’t help himself.

First, as any good parent, he had to figure out how the plane worked so our son could use it. Then, he had to test the plane. Once he tested it, I noticed a glint in his eyes…my son was going to lucky if he got to fly this plane again. He’s father was hooked.

My husband now eagerly asks if we can go to park or playfields nearby to fly the plane. He likes taking it for low altitude test flights in the house. He’s addicted. My sons and I have called him on this and suggested he might have to start paying our youngest for rental time with the plane.

It’s fun to see my husband’s inner child reemerge. I can almost see his younger self playing with a new toy. It’s a joy that is hard to find in adults. It’s infectious.

Thankfully for us, my husband’s birthday is coming up and we’ll have an opportunity to get him his own remote control plane so my son can get his back. This should make both my husband and son very happy.

What activity or toy has gotten your inner child to reemerge?