Tag Archives: pumpkin carving

Carving Pumpkins

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This past week, in preparation for Halloween, pumpkins were gathered and knives were sharpened for some gruesome and gross fun…

It was time to carve our jack o’ lanterns!

This is one of my favorite holiday traditions. Not because I love digging my hands into the cold, slimy guts of a pumpkin, but because it is a tradition that draws my heart to my own childhood memories and the memories of years past with my own children. Like so many of the holiday traditions that are repeated year after year, pumpkin carving serves as a connecting thread that ties us together as a family, builds shared memories, and draws us closer to each other.

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I am a huge believer in the importance of family traditions, whether speaking of holiday traditions or day to day traditions. I believe family traditions serve as a glue, connecting us to each other. I believe they are an essential element of family life, but they are even more important when trying to build connection with new family members. We have discovered through our journey of adoptions that shared family traditions can be a catalyst to bonding and building feelings of belonging.

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And they are fun!

They force us, as parents, to set aside the urgent tasks of the day for the important things…

Connecting with our children in a lighthearted, silly way.

So, on the Sunday before Halloween we carved lack o’ lanterns with the boys for our family night activity, and while we carved I used the following family home evening lesson from LDS Daily to liken the experience to a spiritual lesson.

One of the most recognized symbols of Halloween is a jack-o-lantern. People love to take pumpkins and make beautiful creations. Many years ago, people from Ireland brought the tradition of making jack-o-lanterns to America. It comes from the story of a man named Jack who roamed the earth after he died and needed a light to see.

But the Irish didn’t have pumpkins! They used turnips, potatoes, and other gourds to make their jack-o-lanterns. When Irish immigrants started coming to America, they discovered the pumpkin was easier to carve and much bigger.

Today, jack-o-lanterns are a part of the Halloween tradition. But did you know we can learn about Jesus Christ from the jack-o-lantern?

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 We are like this pumpkin. God picks us from the patch for a special purpose. He has brought us to Earth and to families where he helps us become clean. All the dirt is washed off of us.

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God can ask us to do hard things. Sometimes we are asked to go through trials or illnesses. We make mistakes and need to repent. God wants to change our hearts so we can be more like him. This is like when we cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out all the yucky pumpkin goo.

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 There are seeds inside the pumpkin. Inside of us, we have seeds of doubt, fear, or anger. God removes these seeds and instead turns them into seeds of faith, hope, and charity. This is like when we clean off all the seeds and cook them so they’re yummy.

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God wants us to have joy in this life and in the life to come. He helps us have a smiling face of peace.

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With the jack-o-lantern, we carve a smile and put a light inside. We have the light of Jesus Christ inside of us that can shine bright for everyone to see.”

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Happy Halloween from our house to yours!

I’ve Never met a Pumpkin I didn’t like!

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I LOVE this time of year.

October has and always will have my heart.

I love the weather, the smells, the changing leaves, and the activities attached to this month…

And I tend to fill those 31 days to capacity as I try to fit in all the fall fun I can before the weather turns, the evenings darken, and the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season comes down upon us.

With the month of October comes my favorite holiday of the year…

HALLOWEEN!

It is with great enthusiasm we plan our costumes and decorate the house. One tradition that accompanies this holiday is the annual family pumpkin carving night.

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This year I lucked out when I stumbled across an exceptional deal on pumpkins when driving past a country farm. Sitting by the roadside were HUGE pumpkins that were being sold for $2.00/ each, regardless of size. Well, who could pass up a deal like that?! Rather than simply buy the kids each a pumpkin like I usually do, I decided to go ahead and buy 8 so Toby and I could each carve our own pumpkin.

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We decided Sunday night was the night.

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We have reach the point of life where we rarely have a night where everyone is home together. As much as I hate it, the reality of this season of life is that school schedules, work schedules, church commitments, and social obligations make catching everyone at home, all at one time, a near impossibility. Because of this we have set aside Sunday evening as our family night. After dinner on Sunday we gather in the living room to calendar out our week as a family, hold our weekly family council, and enjoy a lesson, activity or game, and fun treat as a family. Even this commitment has become more challenging with Gracie’s YSA congregation’s meetings now beginning at 3:00 pm each Sunday. This means that Grace isn’t getting home until almost 8:00 on Sundays… but we are making it work. We just save our Family Night activity for 8pm on Sunday nights.

This past Sunday was pumpkin night.

As we prepared for Gracie’s arrival home we cleared the dining room table, covered it in plastic, and carried all the pumpkins in from outside. With the addition of empty bowls carving knives, and metal spoons we had everything we needed to create jack-o’-lantern magic.

When Grace got home we jumped right into the festivities. Everyone chose their pumpkin and began sketching out their design on their pumpkin. I love seeing how creative everyone is with their ideas. And it is always neat to see how reflective the design is of the carver who is creating it.

It was especially neat to watch Brandon as he experienced this family tradition for the first time. He is 16 years old and this was his first time carving a pumpkin, and as his mom this “first” was as delightful as it was watching it with my older kids when they were toddlers experiencing this tradition for the first time…

The only difference: Brandon was a lot less messy and a lot more capable of safely holding a knife.

Everyone jumped in to the task at hand and soon completed pumpkins were scattered across the table.

Tyler created a happy jack-o-lantern.

 

Ozzie paid homage to Gracie’s automobile with a Kia logo.

 

Rusty, our Disney fan, carved a delightful Winnie the Pooh pumpkin.

Molly, our rain lover , carved her pumpkin to reflect a personal delight- autumn rain showers!

Gracie’s pumpkin reflected her educational pursuit of sign language with an artistic carving of the sign for “I love you.”

And finally Brandon decided to keep his first jack-o’-lantern traditional, with a carved  face, cutting the eyes into hearts and topping his pumpkin with a crown.

Toby decided to carve his pumpkin into a night scene, complete with a shooting star.

And I transformed my pumpkin into Jack, from the Disney classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”

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The guts from eight pumpkins were sorted through, as we pulled and rinsed the seeds to prep them for roasting, and then we headed outside to light all the pumpkins from within and watch them glow on the front porch.

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Standing back  and looking upon our completed creations made my heart swell with love and gratitude for the simple things in life that brings such joy.

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They were simply magical!

For dinner we enjoyed Molly’s dinner creation of stuffed pumpkins. This is a recipe that was passed down from Toby’s mom after she made it for the kids one Halloween weekend when they were little.

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We felt it was time to resurrect this recipe and Molly took on the job of gutting eight pie pumpkins and helping me make the rice and ground beef filler that gets cooked inside. The finish result was delicious and festive…

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A perfect ending to our fun, fall, family night!

Halloween came early this year…

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Tyler…our resident goof ball!

 

(I’m still a week behind in my blogging. Here is my final blog about last weekend’s festivities…)

This past weekend was a tough one. The knowledge that Ozzie was leaving on Monday morning and would be gone for four months left everyone feeling unsettled and emotional. We tried to move through the days as normally as possible, but it was challenging with that big grey cloud hanging over our heads.

Everyone was dealing with a muddy mess of emotions. We were grateful that Ozzie was accepted to this awesome facility where he will finally get the intensive therapeutic help he needs to heal from past trauma, but were also mourning this upcoming shift in our life, upset and grieving that this step needs to happen.

My mother summed it up beautifully when I shared the news with her. She said, “It is like finding out someone you love has cancer, and the prognosis is not good. And then soon after, receiving the news that your loved one has secured the last bed at the Cancer Treatment Center of America and will be working with the best doctor in that field.”

You don’t know whether to be angry that treatment is needed or grateful that treatment is available for a once hopeless diagnoses.

It is hard to verbalize the hard mix of emotions that come with this journey. I know I struggle to filter through the jumble of thoughts and feelings that knot in my stomach, so I can appreciate the struggles Ozzie and the other children are suffering though during this hard season.

This weekend was particularly hard. We knew what was coming, and with that knowledge there were feelings of relief and great grief. It felt like the weekend was a series of good-byes to life as we knew it. It was painful on so many levels and I didn’t know whether to wish for time to stand still, so as to avoid the inevitable, or to pray for time to speed up so we could rip this band-aid off and begin facing our new normal. Mostly I just felt numb, like a shell of my real self, moving through the motions of living but weirdly detached.

We packed up Ozzie’s bag, filling it with clothes, winter gear, books, comfort items, therapy tools, and photos…everything he could possibly need for the next four months.

We cleaned his room. Preparing it for his absence so that when he returns home it would be ready for him.

Then we tried to fit in some fun and family bonding. Our weekend was filled with horseback riding lessons, “Gotcha Day” fun, and lots of low key, quiet moments as a family.

One of Ozzie’s primary disappointments about going away was his concern about missing out on holiday traditions. He will most likely be able to return home for holidays but is sad to miss out on our families traditions leading up to holidays…like pumpkin carving for Halloween. I couldn’t address all his worries, but that was a concern I could address, and did so gladly.

On Saturday we went pumpkin shopping, allowing each of the kids to pick out a pumpkin for carving and then came home and carved Jack-O-Lanterns a month early.

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Everyone got into the spirit of the evening, seeking out creative carving ideas and jumping into the task of gutting their pumpkins.

The result was an evening of fun for Ozzie and the rest of the family. We were all taking part in a cherished family tradition. Who cares if it was 90 degrees outside while we were doing it. Yes, the finished results will probably wither and mold by next Saturday, but this activity wasn’t about the finished results. Like so many aspects of our life it is not about the ending, it is about the journey.

The kids are now all old enough to be left to their own devices as they turn a pumpkin into something more magical, allowing Toby and I to just sit back and watch the fun.

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I did spend time digging through their pumpkin guts as the kids carved, picking out pumpkin seeds to roast. I found a recipe for dill pickle flavored roasted pumpkin seeds that I wanted to try. The results were delicious!

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The kids all came up with creative creations this year.

Rusty went with a tongue-in-cheek math joke:  Rusty’s pumpkin “Pi”

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Grace created the “Fly Away to Neverland “scene from Peter Pan:

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Ozzie went traditional with an awesome pumpkin face:

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Molly carved a Harry Potter pumpkin:

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And Tyler did a dollar sign face:

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Once everyone was done carving we took their pumpkins out to the porch.

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We lit them, turned off the lights, and watched them glow, enjoying the magic of the moment. It meant a lot to Ozzie that he was able to participate in this beloved family tradition and it meant the world to this Momma to have all my chicks with me on that beautiful September night, as we stood beneath the stars watching their pumpkins glow bright.

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We ended Family Night with the movie, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” while we munched on pumpkin seeds and enjoyed our last evening together for a while.

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This hard transition is a blessing,

but it still hurts like crazy…