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?

Madden

Is your child enthralled with video games?

My oldest son is a huge fan, though we’ve never owned a gaming system. It was a conscious choice by my husband and I. We didn’t want to get caught up in having to have the latest and greatest, spending lots of money on games and accessories, turning our living room into a game room, and most importantly losing our son’s attention. We want to spend time with him while he’s growing up, not him and his video controller.

Of course, we have tablets and my son has found that gaming systems aren’t the only medium that allows you to play games. He quickly found Madden (NFL) was available as an app and begged me to download it. We agreed he could with screen limits (though I know he’s exceeded the limit many, many times). When I’ve realized this and told him to turn the game off, it is met with much resistance. “I need to finish this game!” “Just a minute.” And the list goes on. I’m the ‘bad guy’ interrupting his fun, or so he thinks. After me nagging him multiple times and then walking over and taking the tablet out of his hands he shared his anger. “Why can’t I have an XBOX? Everyone else does!” I took a breath and reminded him that we had no plans of buy a gaming system. He’d already shown us he struggled with screen time just on the tablet. He didn’t like that. I’m sure he thought my husband and I were being unfair and/or mean.

My son went away to overnight camp for a week and was not allowed to bring any electronics. We didn’t know how he’d fair. He had books to read but this would be the longest time he’d been away from electronics. Before he left on his trip, he asked if I’d update his Madden app on the tablet while he was away. “It’s very important,” he said. He even put a reminder on the calendar.

When my son returned I shared with him that I’d had trouble updating the app, but found a work around. He was grateful and started to play the game. After about 30 minutes, he gave me the tablet and said, “You know, Mom, I don’t need this. I’m glad you never got me a XBOX. If you did, I would just be on it all the time and would miss out on doing so much. Like all the stuff I got to do while I was at camp. Sorry I gave you such a hard time about it.” My younger son was standing nearby and overheard the whole conversation. His expression was priceless. He too couldn’t believe what his older brother was saying.

My son is back on his tablet, but not as much as he previously was. I know what a draw Madden can be, and know how much my son enjoys playing it, but am glad he’s seeing the pitfalls of spending all of your free time playing games and how, if you’re not careful, they can take you away from participating in life.

How do you handle your child’s screen time or gaming habits? How are you helping them be present and experience life?

I’ll be off for Labor Day weekend and back in September.

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!

Getting Caught Up in the Moment

Did you play sports growing up? Do you recall getting caught up in the action, whether you were playing or watching your team?

My son’s soccer team was recently invited to watch the local high school play in the state tournament. My son was excited to sit with his teammates and watch the teams play (a special bonus was that their coach was one of the coaches for the high school team playing). The kids quickly got caught up in the action. It was fun to see them interact, cheering on the team, doing the wave (without any care that no one else was doing it) and talking in their own team lingo as they observed the game. They also got caught up in the nastier side of sports, booing and finding ways to take digs at the opposition.

I got caught up in the action as well. It was a very aggressive and physical game. At one point, two players collided, resulting in one (from the team we were cheering for) bleeding from the head. When the referees proceeded not to issue a yellow card for the incident, I too got caught up in the moment. “When are you going to card #10, ref? This is ridiculous!” I yelled. My son was a little taken aback. One, because I had been relatively quiet up until this point, and two, I clearly reacted as though a true injustice had been done and either the ref was blind or incompetent. His reaction brought me out of the moment. I needed that. The ref’s job is hard enough, they didn’t need me yelling at them. I didn’t want my son thinking my behavior was right either. (On a side note, I don’t know how refs do it. I would sink into the ground if people were telling me how terrible I was while I was performing at my job. I don’t envy them, but do respect them, no matter how frustrating it can be when you see a missed call.).

The game was close right up to the end. The team my son was cheering for won in dramatic action. He was in heaven. He and his teammates celebrated and went off to find their coach to congratulate him. It was one of those moments where you recognize it’s special. It doesn’t happen often and you need to just enjoy it. I couldn’t help getting caught up in my son’s moment. It was pure joy.

How do you get caught up in special moments when they happen?

 

 

 

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?

 

 

Potty Talk

Has your child ever embraced a behavior you don’t condone and had you wondering how in the world did this happen?

My boys have entered a potty talk phase. They eagerly seek out opportunities to insert bodily functions (fart, in particular, brings them the most glee) into conversations to make them more humorous (in their minds), songs (their latest was We Wish You a Merry Fart-mas, and a Happy Poop Year — which they came up with ad hoc on the drive home from school — ugh!), and play (it’s not uncommon to find the good guys and bad guys using their own body-producing gas to take out the other side).

Growing up in a family of all girls, potty talk never entered the picture. You might have to pass gas (the word ‘fart’ was never said in my house growing up that I can remember) but you did it discreetly and you never talked about it. Ever. We thought the boys who participated in this kind of talk were gross, and were grateful we didn’t have to share space with them outside of class.  I’m seeing the boys I judged so harshly as a young girl now in a different light. Those boys I detested as a young girl, are now my sons.

Of course, since this started I’ve attempted to let my boys know how others may view their behavior (if you have to say these words and giggle endlessly about it, get this out of your system in the car or at home…and please, please, please don’t use it in front of Grandma and Grandpa), and that there really isn’t anything funny about how the body works.  And while our kids understand that passing gas is normal, as well as having a bowel movement, they’ve also found great humor in it. Oh, I hope this phase ends soon.

Of course, we all go through phases growing up and look back with fondness, embarrassment and sometimes both. While I’m not a particular fan of this phase (though have to admit, I have found myself smiling or even silently laughing at some of the stuff they’ve come up with), I know it’s just kids being kids. It’s another opportunity for growth — to strengthen my parenting skills (including patience and communication), and theirs (you don’t have many opportunities to be silly and carefree, particularly as you get older…I hope my husband and I help them figure out how to have their next silly and carefree phase in a more civilized way).

Has your child had a potty humor phase?  If so, how did you handle it?

How have you helped your child be silly and carefree?

 

Zombie Mommy 2.0

Once again it’s that time of year where the grunting begins, followed by endless nagging. The grunting is from my kids — “Do we have to get up?” “Just five more minutes.” “Okay, okay, I’ll get ready!” The nagging from me or their father “Guys?!” “Have you brushed your teeth?” “Are your shoes on?” You get the drift. I honestly can’t stand having to prod them along most mornings.

Last year in a creative attempt to prompt my kids to action, I went into zombie mode and stopped nagging and started doing my own grunting. Raising my arms out in front of me and dragging on foot behind. “Mommy’s gonna eat boy’s who aren’t ready yet!” The boys squealed with delight — this was fun! As I brought out the Halloween decorations this year, my sons asked when Zombie Mom would be returning. The next morning, Zombie Mom re-emerged.  My youngest thought it was hilarious, but said, “Hey mom, when we get closer to Christmas, can you be Scary Santa?” I had to laugh. Did I do Scary Santa last year?  Is Scary Santa like Zombie Mom but says ‘ho ho ho — Santa hungry for boys who aren’t ready?’ I’ll have to think about that one. I’ll have to ask the kids to tell me how Scary Santa would act. The best part of all of this is making it playful makes it fun (instead of stressful and frustrating). I have to remember to do this more often. The kids enjoy it and they get ready in much more timely fashion.

How do you engage your child to get them out the door?  What creative ways have been successful for you?