Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Pumpkin Carving 2016

Where we live it still doesn't feel like fall (we are wearing shorts most afternoons), but the leaves have finally started to change to brilliant shades of orange, yellow and red. Its one of my favorite times of the year.

Daniel and I have been married for almost 14 years, and in all of that time we have only carved one pumpkin together. We have always bought a pumpkin, and have actually gone to a pumpkin patch every year since having kids, but we haven't made the effort to carve said pumpkins.

To be fair, Daniel hasn't had a lot of time during the last two years to do extra projects like pumpkin carving. He has been at his new job for about a month, and we count our blessings daily now that he has more time to devote to family.

Before kids (and crazy job commitments), I guess we were just lazy in the decorating department. There were several years where we turned off our house lights and hid in our basement on Halloween night.

But that has changed. We are committed to holidays and all of the fun that goes along with them. Including pumpkin carving. As a friend said, now that we have started, there is no turning back.

Earlier this month, I was at the grocery store with our boys and Jack saw a display of small pumpkins and asked to get one. I said sure and we brought it home where he had the idea to paint his pumpkin. While Isaac napped, I set Jack up with the paints and then started cleaning the kitchen.

My back was turned for 5 minutes when I realized that Jack had decided to move from regular painting to finger painting and he had dumped almost all of the paint on the paper.

So I took a deep breath and helped him finish his project (note to self: I need to buy paints to replace what he used up on the pumpkin). He somehow managed to get a ton of paint on that little pumpkin – it took 3 days to fully dry!

Our pumpkin carving experience was a little smoother – we picked up our pumpkin at Old Mcdonald's Farm on Saturday and then carved the pumpkin on Sunday night after supper.

Poor Isaac did not enjoy this experience EXCEPT when he was sitting in Daniel's lap "helping" with the pumpkin, the few minutes he tried sword fighting everyone with a pool noodle, and then finally when he brought me snacks to give him. Isaac and his snacks... I'll leave it at that.

Jack turns 5 next month and he loved this activity. He didn't care to help with the guts of the pumpkin – he thought that part was too gross, but he enjoyed the rest of the process.

I had him pick a face from a Google search on my phone and then I quickly drew the face on the pumpkin and then Daniel helped Jack carve it out. Isaac got in the on the carving action a bit, but you can only let a 1.5-year-old wield a cutting tool for so long.

Jack thought it was cool to push the shapes out after they were cut, and was surprised about the candle going inside (evidently we are failing at holidays since he didn't know this).

Pumpkin carving was a bit messy but not nearly as bad as I imagined. I'm glad we carved a pumpkin this year and I'm looking forward to doing again in the future. Hopefully Isaac will have a better time next year.

Jack will probably think this is his own personal holiday activity since we told him that a carved pumpkin is called a "Jack"-o-lantern. Now we just need to get costumes for our boys. Jack says he is going to be a good super hero, but he doesn't know which one yet.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Old Mcdonald's Farm 2016

I'm sure I have said this before, but I kind of love how having children has opened us up to new experiences and opportunities that we didn't take advantage of before kids were a part of our lives.

Not to say that we couldn't do these things, but that we didn't do them. Life was good before kids, but there were some things we were missing out on.

Granted, memory making is not always a walk in the park, and life with little kids can pose challenges (poopy diaper or the occasional potty training accident in the middle of an outing, anyone?), but the joy of the experience outweighs the inconvenience.

Two years ago we visited Old Mcdonald's Farm in Sale Creek and we had an ok experience. Truth be told, there were a lot of people, the lines were long, the weather was uncomfortably hot for the end of October, I was pregnant, and Jack needed a nap. Perfection it was not. But looking back at the photos from that year, I am glad we went.

Last year we were a bit jaded and opted to make the drive to Ellijay, Georgia to visit to Burt's Farm in the middle of the week and enjoyed a more low-key experience without all of the lines.

We didn't have a set plan for a trip to a pumpkin patch this year until some friends asked if we wanted to go to Old Mcdonald's with them. We almost said no, but we knew our kids would have fun so we agreed to the plan.

This time we went on a Saturday and arrived as soon as the farm opened. Since we arrived early in the day, we were able to walk in and ride the pedal-propelled go carts right away (no line). We actually got to ride three times before there was a line and we moved on to something else.

We only waited a few minutes for the wagon ride and were even able to go on the actual hayride this year. Timing is everything at a place like this!

The kids had a blast on the big barn slides and playing in the corn bins. Initially Isaac hated the corn, but I got in and had him sit in my lap and he warmed up to the experience.

After lunch we visited the petting zoo, wandered through the hay maze and Jack and Daniel tried their hand with the pumpkin sling shot.

We still aren't brave enough to take our kids into the corn maze (I don't want to get stuck with a fussy toddler), maybe we will try it next year.

We ran into several friends, so I guess that means we are officially "local."

If you are in Chattanooga and looking for a good pumpkin patch to visit, Old Mcdonald's is great, as long as you plan on going early in the day (expect it to get busy after lunch). Cost is $12/person and kids 2 and under are free. Pumpkins less than 5lbs cost $2 and 5-20lbs cost $5 (or something like that, I can't remember the exact sizes, expect to pay $5 for a decent size pumpkin).

Our previous trips to the pumpkin patch:
Burt's Farm 2015Old Mcdonald's Farm 2014Crow Creek Pumpkin Patch 2013Crow Creek 2012 and Burt's Farm 2012

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Compassion Experience

I believe I was a teenager when I was first introduced to Compassion International – my church youth group sponsored three children over the course of several years.

Compassion is a Christian organization that brings together children in the poorest countries with sponsors from around the world who are willing to help through financial assistance. The sponsors and children are also able to communicate via letters and some even eventually meet.

The program has had success in getting these children a secondary education, with a path for college and a future employment. The sponsorship also provides for medical care and other needs.

Over the weekend, a local church hosted a Compassion Experience. This event allowed us to have a glimpse into the lives of three children (now grown) who had benefited from the Compassion program. They each had very different lives, but all were touched by poverty.

Daniel and I regularly talk about how we can teach our kids the importance of compassion and empathy for people who have different life experiences from us, and we felt like the Compassion Experience would be a good opportunity to plant that seed.

With young children, this experience wasn't a perfect fit, but Jack did choose to walk through all three stories.

We all listened to the story of Carlos in Guatemala together, then Isaac decided that he was finished so we decided that one of us should just let him play outside.

Jack and I listened to the story of Kiwi in the Philippines and then we traded and Daniel went with Jack to hear a story about a child growing up in Uganda.

Each story led us through a series of rooms. As we listened to each child's hardship, we had the opportunity to see how they lived, what they ate, and how they were expected to contribute to their family.

Jack is almost five and some parts of these (true) stories were pretty intense – for the Philippines story they had him listen to a kid friendly version.

When we finished, we asked him what he thought. He said he was sad that the mom of the child in Uganda had died. So even though he was young, he still connected with the story.

Mostly he enjoyed playing with the food in each country, and I have to confess that I am pretty sure the headphones were probably his favorite part.

I think that two years from now he would have a better understanding of what the stories were about and why we were there.

Still, it was a good experience and if you have a chance to attend one of these free events, I would definitely recommend it.

There are so many children in our world who need help, and if nothing else, it is a good reminder of how much we have to be thankful for, every day.


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