I Love That Wonky Pumpkin

Today our Princess decided it was pumpkin carving day.

She has been so excited about the prospect since she picked hers out at the Pumpkin Patch last Saturday.  Then on Thursday we found a pumpkin carving kit at the GW Boutique.  That thing has been burning a hole in her proverbial pocket ever since.

Today was the day.

I get it.  This is the first time she’s ever carved a pumpkin.

Mine too, as best as I can remember.

I have a vague recollection of Mama cleaning one out and carving it many, many years ago when I was very small.  My thinking is, after being a part of the carving today, that it was just too messy for her to want to deal with, what with four small children underfoot.

We all gathered out on the front porch as Princess traced a circle with a Sharpie around the top for the cut out.  Her friend Miss C was over, and she liked to offer her guidance.  *ahem*  I gently suggested that maybe she could let our girl do it her own way since I assumed Miss C had already carved her own (and expertly so, I’m thinking, from the suggestions she offered).  She graciously backed off with the suggestions for a few minutes but was sure to inform me that she was going to carve hers later tonight.

As my girl worked on cutting a hole in the top of the pumpkin with the orange tool that had all the sharpness of a dull butter knife, she chattered away happily.  Life is such a dream for this child of mine.  Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.  Everything is the “best ever,” and today was the best ever because she was carving her very own pumpkin by her very own self for the very first time.  Ever.

She’s pretty awesome like that.  I think she got it from my Mama.  That whole “finding so much joy in everything” thing.

After scooping out the innards, something she let her friend help her with, she was ready to design the face.  She drew triangles on, again with the Sharpie, which in hindsight might not have been the best idea.  When one was a little higher and bigger than the other, she tried to redraw it, not realizing at first that redrawing wouldn’t help.  The lines would still be there.  Her friend made one suggestion after the other.  I was about to interject again, when my girl said, “No, it’s okay, thanks though.  I like the way it looks.  They eyes will just look a little creepier and spookier this way.”

I am so proud of her.  So secure and confident in what she was creating.

I’m proud of me too.

I didn’t say one word as she drew the nose.  “I want it to be a square,” she said.  And the next thing I know, this “mouth-sized” rectangle was sitting below the two wonky eyes.  I so wanted to suggest she make it into the mouth and not worry about a nose, but I didn’t.  This is huge for me.  My Joyful friend and I used to congratulate each other when we let our children create without all the assistance and guidance (okay, we were intent on redoing the whole thing) when Aub and her girls were little.  So to be able to sit back and enjoy the creation and keep my mouth closed?

HUGE.

Her friend actually did suggest the whole make it a mouth and create a smaller nose above it idea.  Wondering how my girl would react, I again sat back and listened.

Princess did not disappoint.  “No, I really want to make the mouth below there.  And I like the nose.  Lots of light will show through.”

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And she carved away.

The only thing I had to help her with (don’t judge me please) was getting the mouth out without losing the teeth.  She hadn’t cut it quite all the way through and it threatened to turn into a crescent shaped mouth.  But she had carved the teeth, so I wanted her to have them.  A few more sawing motions and gently sliding it out, voila!

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Done.

Mr. Jack O’ Lantern was finished.  A bit wonky, but that only makes him creepier.  And spookier.

Don’t you think?

Tonight I’m thankful for the privilege of raising these precious children.  I’m thankful for this middle one who is as full of sweetness as she is spunk, which makes for a sparkling combination.  I give thanks that she is confident and creative and strong, and I am happy she can hear criticism and kindly continue doing her own thing.  Most of all, I’m happy that what made her most excited about creating her very own jack o’lantern all by her very own big self was putting a light in it and watching it shine in the darkness.

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Because you know what?  She has a gift for that.  Letting her light shine, especially in the hard and sad times.

She got that from my Mama too.

Love to all.

Looking for the Balance

There’s this awesome page I follow on Facebook–A Mighty Girl.   Several times a day they post a story about an amazing female, some from today and some from the past, who has made her own mark in this world.  From athletes to scientists to authors.  I have so enjoyed reading amazing stories and learning about women I have never heard of before.  They share about books that are great for young girls to read that promote strength and wisdom and are about kindness and anti-bullying and all sorts of good things.  I have been so impressed with this page and its website.  I have found wonderful books for us to share and discuss, and I’ve added to our list of “movies to watch after we read the book”–the most recent one starring Emma Watson.  I’m excited about that one.

But here’s where my worries set in.  I’m all for raising my girls to be strong.  To be wise.  And kind.  And to make wise choices.

But–

I have this baby boy.  Who is seven.  And a half.  (He won’t let me forget the half now.)  And he smells nice and he’s funny and I want him to be strong and wise and kind too.  And I really want him to think and make wise choices.

So far I haven’t found a website that is comparable for boys.   I really want one too.  I didn’t realize how much I did until I saw a book shared on the AMG page–something about 20 women who changed the world.  I would love to find role models like that for my little guy Cooter.   (I mean Star Wars and superheroes can only get us so far.)  I searched on-line and found a similar book for boys.  I was thankful, but I still feel that there is a lack of good material out there for my boy.

Is it because we as a society think males don’t need any support or inspiration or role models?

Sigh.

It’s a hard balance to find.  Even in our own home as I try to empower my girls, I worry that I may be emasculating him with the direction some of the conversations go around here.

And bless him.  I want him to have all the best–I want him to grow up to change the world for the better too.  But how can he if he doesn’t have good stories of inspiration like I’m finding for my girls, and if we inadvertently become female-centric in our home?

It’s a hard balance.

Sorry.  It bears repeating.

Tonight I’m thankful for my parents who somehow found that balance–who empowered all of their children–three girls and a baby boy.  So many times lately I’ve wished I could seek their wisdom on this.  I appreciate how they raised us to believe in ourselves and each other.

If anyone has thoughts or wisdom to share on this, please do.  I want all my children to be good human beings and good stewards of all they’ve been given.

Love to all.

The Most Important Question I’ve Asked My Children

If I could start every day with a welcome given by David LaMotte and end it with a benediction given by this same talented singer/songwriter, I could never say I’d had a bad day.  Figure out how to make this happen, and you can hold me to it.  His words and the grace and light they share…..tears, y’all.  Listening to him perform last night, I held it together through his song about his grandparents’ home and going back to visit it, and that took some doing.  My Granny’s house is the one place I yearn most to be right now.  I even held it together during his bathtub song, but for that one I was holding in a huge guffaw (I so like that word!), so it was a little different kind of self-control.  But at the end, when he said, “You are (fill in the blank), and you are loved,” over and over, something let go and I was crying.  (The funny thing is that in talking with friends, the “You are loved” part is what stuck with us and what we all remember–isn’t that telling?)

His “World Changing 101” workshop this morning was full of simple and wise and mind-blowing thoughts and questions that begged to be asked and thought about.  I am still working to wrap my brain around so much of what we talked about, and I know more of these thoughts will show up here in the next few days.

This morning David shared with us the work he and his wife Deanna are doing in Guatemala.  They were there for their honeymoon in 2004.  They visited a school while they were there.  They were not looking for a mission, but while visiting they saw needs that they thought they could help with and PEG Partners was born.  That is usually how it happens, right?  When we least expect it?

He talked a little this morning about how they are working with schools in Guatemala on critical thinking with literacy.  David said that these children were going through years of school without ever being asked what they thought about a story or book.

Wait.  What?

I have to admit that I didn’t hear everything he shared for the next few minutes, because my head was spinning.  What would that even look like?  I can hardly fathom it.  I grew up with Mama reading to us, asking us questions, making her voice animated for different characters.  She brought books to life and let us ask questions, which we did, and she asked us questions about the pictures, about the story.  It was interactive.  I cannot imagine anything different.

But what if it were?  What if no one had asked me what I thought?  We are currently reading an intriguing book about the Revolutionary War as a read-aloud.  Our Princess, Cooter, and I have all been tossing out our ideas as to whether we think the schoolmaster is completely trustworthy.  When we finish a chapter, and I share the title of the next one, they are eager to offer their ideas on what might happen.  When discussing battles, Cooter is especially fond of second-guessing General Washington or General Howe and offering his own ideas of how to plan the next attack.  This is not something I planned.  It’s just something that has happened.

It was during this head-spinning/mind-blown/in my own world moment that I realized that very possibly the most important question I ask my children is, “What do you think?”

When we are heading home from a play at the Grand or from their Sparks Stories bible time, I usually ask, “What was your favorite part? What did you like?”  Sometimes, when Cooter’s a little cranky and nothing suits him, I’ll ask, “Well, what would you have changed?”

When we sit down at supper together, one of us asks from time to time, “What was your favorite thing today?”

Princess is an avid reader.  She can often read one of the books in the Fairy series, her favorite chapter books, on the drive between finding the treasure at our local used bookstore and pulling in our driveway.  When she’s extra excited about one, she loves to share about it.  There’s no need to ask her, “What did you think?”  She’s already telling you.

Cooter and his Star Wars obsession has now moved on to include Indiana Jones and Harry Potter.  No, he hasn’t seen any of those movies either.  But thanks to Lego and their videos and well-done marketing ploys, he knows some of the edited storylines, and he is FASCINATED.  He talks about each one of the three storylines non-stop.  All. Day.  Long.  Sometimes all three at once.  There is no need to ask him, as I once did, “What did you think Buddy?” or “What do you think will happen?” because you already know.  He told you yesterday.  And three times the day before. And last week.

My point is this.  Asking our children what they think, what they enjoyed, what they anticipate will happen, what they would have changed–all of those things do help develop critical thinking.  This is a skill that will serve them well in this world that needs people who can think and plan and problem solve.

But it also does one other thing.

Perhaps the most important thing a question can ever do.

It says to a child, a person, a friend, an acquaintance, a stranger, another human being–

You have a voice.

Please share it and I will listen.

You matter.  What you think matters.

And that is something this world really needs.  People with strong voices and thoughts and hearts who have been encouraged and empowered to speak out.

If we teach our children what is truly important in this world–the very things I’ve heard David LaMotte share and talk about for the past two days–faith, action, love, kindness, justice, mercy–and we teach them that their voices are valuable, worthy of being heard–I think, just maybe, we might be on the right track toward healing broken hearts and mending broken fences.  And silencing the sounds of war and the cries of those enslaved.  By ending all of those things.  And somewhere in there, I suspect, there will be laughter.

At least with my crew around.

If you have littles around, take time to ask them an important question.  If not, ask anyone who’s around.  And then really listen.  We all need to know our voices count.

Love to all.  Carry on.