However, since Munchkin's due date was October 31st last year, I figured I should finally embrace Halloween and make the most of it. This year, I bought a costume for the kids, along with little pumpkins to decorate. But it was only after a fun-filled visit to a pumpkin patch--complete with good friends, a hay ride, and walk through a maze made from bales of hay--that I decided that I needed to tackle the messy task of pumpkin carving.
Last week, on the day Monkey had early dismissal from school, I put Munchkin down for a nap, and hauled out the two big pumpkins we had picked out from the patch to carve. Realizing Monkey had no idea what carving pumpkins was all about, (when you live in a high rise, there are limited places to show-off carved pumpkins), I did what all modern parents do and showed him carved pumpkins on YouTube. He seemed to love the idea, so I set a mat on the floor and started carving. He helped me pull out the seeds, but after I sketched the faces, Monkey lost interest and went back to playing with his trains. (No word on when he'll lose interest in those.)
As I struggled to remove all the seeds and threads and attempted to carve the eyes and teeth of the pumpkin, I wished I had one of those pumpkin carving tool kits. You know the ones--they have scrapers for cleaning up the inside, little sharp knives to cut edges, and tools for creating intricate patterns I could not accomplish with the wimpy paring knife I was using. I then thought that no, that'd be cheating! Carving pumpkins means being tough and sawing through pumpkins using regular kitchen knives and brute force. However, that's not entirely fun, since I couldn't get the pumpkins to look quite right, not to mention I couldn't let Monkey help me much because the knives were too dangerous. Plus I had very limited time to get the carving all done before Munchkin woke up and dinner had to be started. Maybe those kits over-simplified things, but they certainly would have helped me reach my goal of doing something fun with the kids that resulted in kooky pumpkin faces.
As I was mulling this over in my mind, I realized that pumpkin carving is a lot like parenting. You can do it one way--make each meal from scratch, sew the kid's costumes yourself, never let anyone else watch your kids--or accept a few shortcuts to reach your goal. If you can't make cookies for the bake sale, use that pre-made dough. You want to cut your time grocery shopping in half? Get a sitter while you shop. Become friends with the crock-pot and learn to love the ease and nutrition of frozen vegetable mixes. Yes, you're not using your own brute strength and stamina to get everything done, but you're still getting food on the table, contributing to fundraisers and preserving your sanity. As I've learned, without sanity, it is impossible to continue to feed, water, bathe and teach kids every day, all day, over and over again.
In the end, I carved the pumpkins myself and even though the kids didn't help, there were no children harmed in the making of scary pumpkin faces and that is an accomplishment. Besides, Monkey was obsessed with the pumpkin seeds and learned to wash them, coat them in oil and salt to roast them and then gobbled them up before bedtime. Learning where food comes from was not exactly the lesson I planned for him, but at least we both learned a little something, courtesy of our toothy, smiley pumpkins.