The Life Stages of Pumpkin Carving

Richard called me a “sentimental fool” over the weekend, and I guess I have to own it. My kids are 10 & 13 now, and Halloween came & went this year so quickly I hardly knew what hit me. As I enjoyed the weekend and looked back over the years, this is what came to mind.

LIfe Stages of Pumpkin Carving

Single/Twenties – Your friends invite you to a Fall Fest, and one of the activities is pumpkin carving. You’ve had several beers and now you think it is kitschy. You grab a knife and start cutting.
Outcome: The next morning you look at the pumpkin and don’t quite remember what inspired you to carve your pumpkin this way – it must have been really funny last night when you were drunk carving. You take a picture and post it to instagram so everyone can get a good chuckle.


Married, No Children – You and your sweetie take a day off of work and you go to the local organic farm (hey – you’ve got vacation days to burn, and you’d do anything to avoid all those damned families on a weekend). You leisurely stroll around, sipping lattes, and pick “just the right pumpkins”. You come back home, search the net for about 2 hours to find just the right carving patterns that represent you each individually. You then meticulously carve your pumpkins together while sipping mulled wine.
Outcome: Pumpkin perfection – beautiful pumpkins you are proud to have perched on your porch. You take a picture and put it on your Christmas card.

carved pumpkins

Married & Baby Makes 3– You are so excited to be a family that you head out to the pumpkin patch to start a family tradition. You are all dressed in the quintessential autumn attire, which is good since you are snapping photos every two feet so you can remember this FOREVER. You pick out 3 pumpkins – one for each of you. You get back home, and the baby is asleep and you should be too.
Outcome: The pumpkins go out front uncarved, but that is ok…there are 2 big pumpkins and 1 small one, and that is just too cute for words. You have a glass of wine to celebrate all the joys of life (sniff, sniff).

3 pumpkins

Married, Young Kids – Off you go on the annual trip to the pumpkin patch. By the time you get there, child #1 needs to pee (yes, you told him to pee before you left home; no, there is not a bathroom in the middle of the pumpkin field; yes, you are already starting to loose your patience), and child #2 has lost a shoe. This will not stop you! This is a tradition! You WILL get pumpkins. You plaster a smile on your face and tell the kids to find pumpkins. Now begins the longest 30 minutes of your life as your children wander around the patch looking for “the right pumpkin”. Many are picked out, then discarded for being: the wrong color; the wrong size; too big to pick up; doesn’t look like me; it has dirt on it; it isn’t dirty enough; I like the other one better, but I don’t remember where I put it down; this one is the very furthest from the car, and I MUST have it (insert screaming child here). Finally you take the pumpkins to the stand, have them weighed, have a cardiac arrest at how much this precious lifetime memory is going to cost, and you head home. Once you arrive home, the children inform you that you MUST CUT THEM NOW! Under protest your husband begins to carve up the pumpkins – 10 minutes in the kids have lost interest and are now watching Curious George.
Outcome: 2 pumpkins carved by what looks to be Edward Scissor Hands, and 2 pumpkins with scribble on them (the ones you drew on after you downed a bottle of wine to recover from the whole day). You take a picture just to have it, but let’s not post that one anywhere.


Married, Pre-teen Kids – In the 2 days between Fall sports ending and Halloween approaching you are reminded by your youngest that you haven’t carved pumpkins yet. You debate for a moment just scrapping the whole thing, but the look on her face is enough to make you believe you will be sitting at the back of the “Mother of the Year” banquet if you don’t get your shit together. No time for the pumpkin patch – going to have to pick up a few at the grocery store (but tell them that they came from the organic local vegetable stand down the street). You get three (let’s face it, dad has only ever participated under protest and these things were expensive) and bring them home. You inform your oldest that he is going to participate in the forced family fun. Each kid gets a pumpkin and a knife and you hope for the best. You get a glass of wine (but only one in case you have to take one of them to the emergency room). You perform the age-old duty of scooping the guts, and wonder why you thought this was a good idea so many years ago.
Outcome: Hmmmm…who knew these kids were somewhat artistic…guess we can put these outside. You take a picture and post it on FB as proof that you actually do things with your kids.

These actually are my kids and their pumpkins - Pumpkin Carving 2014
These actually are my kids and their pumpkins – Pumpkin Carving 2014

Married, Teenage Kids – It is October and you would barely notice by looking at your house. You have been running in so many different directions that you haven’t even had time to get out one Halloween decoration. And no one has said a word. One night over your evening cocktail you turn wistful…you don’t really have many more of these days left where they will be around to carve pumpkins. Saturday morning you declare it family day, you load everyone into the car and force them to the pumpkin patch. While you drive everyone is on their phone, but you don’t care, you are all together. When you get to the pumpkin patch the kids quickly grab the closest pumpkin and declare it “perfect”. You return home and as the kids go to dash out the door with the friends, you remind them that they aren’t carved. They inhale sharply and manage a perfunctory jack-o-lantern.
Outcome: Well, the pumpkins do have 2 eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Guess that is something. You put them out and take a picture – this may be the last one you get.


Married, College Students – It is October and you miss your kids and your traditions. They won’t be home for Halloween, so you make a care package of candy, a small pumpkin and cash (of course) and send it to school. A few days later you get a text with that says “thanks mom” with a picture of the small pumpkin that has been carved.
Outcome: You cry into your glass of wine as you look at the picture and think, “Who raised that sentimental kid?”


Empty Nesters – Your husband looks at you and says, “Hey honey, it is that time of the year…let’s go to the pumpkin patch.” You burst into tears at the fact that this man knows you so well. You head off hand-in-hand for a leisurely day of strolling in the crisp fall air. You watch the families and the children as you reminiscence about the many hours you have spent doing this same thing. You take a picture of the two of you and text it to your kids… “Mom and Dad miss you guys. Love you.”
Outcome: You have a pretty pumpkin on your coffee table that makes you smile as you sit with your glass of wine in the evening.

Pumpkins and Wine

Empty Nesters with Grandchildren – Your son calls you up and asks you if you want to go to the pumpkin patch with the grandkids. You say yes before he can take a breathe and you immediately start planning! You are more excited than the kids are when you get the pumpkin patch – you let the kids pick out whatever size pumpkin they want and even treat for hot chocolate for everyone. You take enough pictures that day to create a whole photo album. When you get back to the house you sit back with your glass of wine, and you watch as your son struggles to wrangle the kids and carve their pumpkins. He looks at you as he is cleaning up and says “Thanks.”
Outcome: You could care less what the pumpkins look like, and you think to yourself, “I guess I did something right.”

Disclaimer: This isn't my family, in fact, I don't know these people, but don't they look like they are having a great day!
Disclaimer: This isn’t my family, in fact, I don’t know these people, but don’t they look like they are having a great day!

Rooting for the Ultimate Winning Team (and no, it is not the f*&#$g Patriots)

It is my favorite time of the year! We are knee deep in sports season in our house. But  unfortunately I can’t say it is all good news. My Steelers SUCK, the Nats couldn’t win enough games down the stretch to garner a playoff birth, and the Capitals are off to a miserable start. My son’s baseball team has lost more games than they have won. My daughter’s diving team hasn’t even been able to get it together to start training for the season (governmental bureaucracy is GREAT). And one of my fantasy football teams is so bad I think I might need to apologize to everyone for joining the league.

Now before you call the suicide prevention hotline, I will tell you it isn’t all bad. My adopted NFL team, the Miami Dolphins, is doing better than any pundit predicted (though for the record Richard called this in August). My son had a kick-ass game last night. And in my neighborhood FF league I am currently undefeated!

But as I was thinking about my love of all things sports, a question my daughter asked recently came to mind. You see, I wrote this on their bathroom mirror a few weeks ago:

Bathroom Mirror

Shortly after I wrote that my daughter asked, “Mommy, why did you write that in our bathroom?”

And my answer was quick and easy because to me the reason was obvious: I did it because I love you and we are a team all together and I want you to succeed and win in life.

But as I thought about it I realized that my applying the framework of sports to my family was about more than just a surface “Go Fight Win” cheer. It is about teaching our children the values that we have identified (at our 48 Hour Relationship Retreat…sorry, couldn’t help putting in a plug here) – the same ones that we hope they will learn when we encourage them to play sports, only within the safe, supportive, non-threatening confines of our family unit.

“So,” I hope you are asking, “What do you think your kids can learn from your cockamamie application of the team sports approach to your family household?”

So glad you asked! Here are a few of the lessons I hope they learn (DISLAIMER: I wish I applied all of these things all of the time…in reality I do some of them some of the time, and most of them occasionally, and all of them sporadically):

– Celebrate your victories. Sure, easy to do when there is a tough game win, or playoff birth, or even better yet a Super Bowl championship. So what is the family equivalent? Maybe it is the playroom that everyone worked to clean up, the test that you studied really hard for that you got a B on (really – sometimes a B is a huge victory), or the fact that you made it through an evening without getting into a fight with your sibling. There are no trophies for family unity or room cleanliness. But I read somewhere that “we value what we celebrate,” and I think that is true – so we need to celebrate what we want our kids to value. Make up a World Series of Teeth Brushing or a Superbowl of Friendship or whatever silly crap works in your house and celebrate when you make it to the Big Dance.

– Everyone is valued for their contribution. Sure, it is easy to overlook the long snapper because they aren’t the star and they aren’t on the field all that often, but just ask the Redskins what happened this weekend when Nick Sundberg, their starting long snapper, went down with a torn meniscus (hint: it wasn’t good). Sometimes we end up with one child/family member who thinks they are THE STAR and they don’t value their sibling as much as they should. Each person has a role to play in my household, and every role is important. We wouldn’t be complete if my son weren’t his typical Type A self and reminding us all of the rules, nor would we be the same if our daughter weren’t dancing around bringing lightness and joy to the whole room. We all have a purpose and all need to be appreciated for what we contribute to the overall success of the family.

– Set your goals and work hard to get there. This is easy to say, but oh so hard to for kids to embrace. Right?!? They don’t want to work hard, and they don’t have any perspective (heck, for probably ½ of their lives they have been babies or toddlers). But that is where I come in. Where we can help them set goals and plans to get there and monitor their progress and show them how their hard work is paying off. Start small, and build up. But be careful not to blow smoke up their a@@. Kids can spot a faker a mile away. So you have to pick goals that they actually do have to work hard to reach. And you probably have to be the bad guy and make them do the hard work (reference the early statement about how kids don’t actually like to work). But if you are intentional about it and help them monitor their progress and eventual success you will have taught them an amazing lesson that they will be able to use all of their lives.

– When one person on the team screws up you don’t put them down, you pick them up. “You broke the _________”, “You spilled the ______”, “We can’t go to the movie because your room wasn’t clean!” NO, NO, NO!!!!!!! We are a team. When Payton Manning throws an interception (ok, bad example because he has only thrown 2 interceptions this year) his teammates don’t throw rotten tomatoes at him. His defense goes out there and does their best to get the ball back. And his offense works extra hard when they are on the field to help him recover and be his best. To help our children realize that it is better to be positive than negative is a huge gift that will have ripple effects all of their lives.

– Heart is as important as talent. And if you don’t have talent, you need a TON of heart (and by heart I mean desire to meet your goal and commitment to do what it takes to get there). Sure, we all have heard the stories about the kid who comes out of the womb throwing a 95 mph fast ball. But what interests me more, and the stories I tell my kids, are about the athletes that weren’t supposed to make it. About Diana Nyad who at the age of 64 swam from Cuba to Florida. Or Bethany Hamilton, the surfer who survived a shark attack. These are the people I want to be their role models. The people who worked hard to get what they wanted. And the best way I know of doing that is to model it for them. To let them know what my personal goals are, to watch me work hard to achieve them, and then to celebrate when I do reach the goals that I have set. So that they can see that big accomplishments take hard work, but it is possible.

– You might be down, but don’t count yourself out. Yep, I was watching when Tom Brady threw the last second touch-down pass to beat the New Orleans Saints last weekend. And as much as I hate to give any attention to one of my least favorite athletes, I have to say this – that guy never gives up. There will be plenty of times in life when the people around you don’t believe in you or don’t think you can do something. Or when you have been pushed down and kicked around. But learning to have the reserve to believe in yourself will see you through those times and lead you to your own personal victory. But the question is, how do you teach that to your kids? Well, I let my kids see when I fail and when I have set-backs and when I get back up and go forward. It is hard. Because as parents we want to be strong and brave and right (oh yeah, mostly I want to be right). But sometimes I have to say “I was wrong,” or “that sucked,” or “this hurts.” And I have to let my kids see that raw side of life in order for them to see me being strong and overcoming that obstacle. And yes, bad shit happens, but that doesn’t mean we quit…it just means we get back to it and attack it from a different angle.

And to me these “sports” lessons apply to all the areas of our lives. To being a good friend/spouse/parent/sibling. To excelling at school. To worshipping our God. And even to playing a sport.

So be on notice. We are TEAM BARNEY. And we kick ass and we take names. We set goals and we work hard to reach them. We value each “player” for what they bring to our team. We aren’t out when we are down. And we even huddle up and have a family cheer now & then. (Think I’m kidding? Check it out: Team Barney Cheer and yes, we are dorky like this!)


Be My Guest – and Can You Fix my Transmission While You’re Here? (Amanda’s Take)

My in-laws are coming this week. They are coming to help run the house while I will be away on business travel. Awww…that is very nice you might say. While I am saying “OH MY GOD!” Not because it isn’t nice (it is very nice of them…but don’t give them too much credit – they are totally psyched about getting their time in with the grandkids). But the mere thought of having them in my house for a week without me here strikes panic into my heart. Why?!? You don’t really need to ask if you are a wife and your in-laws are coming for a week. But for the men reading this or for those of you who live next door to your in-laws and have already adjusted, let me explain the inner workings of my neurosis.

You see, if my in-laws come while I am away they are likely to see what my house REALLY looks like. They are likely to uncover the secrets hidden away behind the closed doors that even those in my “village” don’t get to see. Like the fact that I still have presents from my cub scout banquet in February hanging out in my office, or I have twenty pairs of summer shoes sitting on my spare bed waiting to be transitioned into my closet, or the fact that my pantry looks like it has been ransacked by the Pittsburg Steelers defensive line!

I spend a considerable amount of time crafting the image of a put-together business owner/mother/friend/sister/wife/coach/whatever-I-need-to-be-today. And all of that might be undone in one 7-day visit when they realize that I am really not put-together at all. That it is all an illusion. And when they find out that it is an illusion, they will most certainly JUDGE ME! And that, of course, would be the worst part of it all.

Then I realized that perhaps there was another way to look at this. I mean I don’t keep a pin-perfect house for a reason. Because it is a choice that I make (because trust me, my mother certainly taught me how to be neat and tidy). It is a very proactive choice that I make to focus on other things in my life instead of spending time making sure every nook & cranny is squeaky clean. To coach my daughter’s soccer team instead of cleaning out the guest room closet. Or to write a book rather than make sure everything in my office is in its place.

So what if my mother-in-law comes and finds that there are some shirts that need buttons sewn on. You know what she’ll probably do? She’ll sew them on! And so what if my father-in-law notices the banister than has been loose for the last 6 months. If he is bothered by it he’ll probably repair it (thank God – because it has been driving me nuts for the last 6 months).

And I have a very conscious choice on how I can react to any acts of kindness that they may commit while they are here. I can either take it as a judgment – a feeling that they think I am not doing a good enough job for their son and/or grandchildren. Or I can embrace their giving ways and be glad that someone is doing the things that I can’t get to.

My decision is already made. I have plenty of room in my life for anyone who wants to help out. Please – feel free (I can even send you a sign-up genius request if you’d like). Step right up and clean off a counter, stuff a dishwasher, or take a kid to practice. I won’t mind. I won’t feel judged. I might even reward you with a tasty margarita when you’re done. I can use all the help I can get because I am spending a lot of my time carefully crafting the image of a put-together business owner/mother/friend/sister/wife/coach/whatever-I-need-to-be-today.

And that makes me really tired.

Disclaimer: My in-laws are truly salt-of-the-earth people who are not at all judgmental. All of the neurosis portrayed in this blog can be 100% attributed to the author. Just ask Richard – he will tell you.

And here is an aside. I am going to try to finish my blogs with a little take-away. A little something that you might apply to your life. Pretty much the moral of the story (so you don’t have to work that hard to figure it out.) If you like it great, if you don’t, well as I was told as a child, “If you don’t have something nice to say, then no one really wanted to listen to you anyway.” I am going to call them my “Scrap the Crap Tips”. It works today – who knows if it will work for every blog…guess we’ll all find out together.

Scrap the Crap Tip: Identify your own priorities, and then don’t feel bad about skipping the stuff that just doesn’t make your list. When others step in to fill in the gaps, don’t spend time worrying about WHY someone did something nice, just accept that they did it, and thank them for their kindness and for their help in your life.


Why 48 Hours?

We’ve all heard the phrase “let me sleep on it” and haven’t we all said “I’ll get back to you on that”. Well in thinking about big life decisions and activities in my life, I have decided that fortunes can change significantly in 48 hours – just 2 days.

Think about it – a weekend in Vegas can result in a trip to jail or holy matrimony – either way your life future has been changed.

Or when you have been offered a new job or business opportunity you take a few days to think it over because you know the decision is going to affect your career path well into the future.

And how about that fight you had with your best friend. That after you have a few days to think it over it doesn’t seem nearly as bad as it did at the time.

The reality is that much can be accomplished in 48 hours.

The Next 48 Hours


(That seems to be a weak way to start this off but we’ve got nothing else right now!)

This blog grew out of the collective beliefs of Amanda & Richard and our experiences gained in 17 years of annual relationship retreats. Plus, working on our own relationship every other day of the year since we met way back in 1994 has contributed to our ideas here.

We believe that each individual is capable of effecting change in their lives if they just have a plan and execute their plan. With two people working together, that change can be (as our son likes to say) epic! And generally all it takes to get started on the right path is 48 hours. Just two days.

And it is simply amazing (though not coincidental in the least) that this blog concept supports the subject of a book that we have written that will be out on the market soon. Our book is about a 48 hour relationship retreat where couples delve into all the aspects of their lives and make plans for success together.

So in addition to random posts about topics that occur to us, we may post about topics in the book and tangent subjects that come up as we finish the book.  Basically, this is all about relationships between two people who are committed to each other. But, we reserve the right to wander off topic occasionally if something strikes our fancy. You’ll just have to deal with it.

The Blog Cocktail Ingredients:

  • 2 parts kick in the pants to make personal change
  • 3 parts helpful advice on how to make those changes
  • Splash of humor
  • 2 dashes of irreverence
  • 1 jigger of sarcasm

Time to wrap this blog post up – all the “experts” suggest that people have the attention span of a gnat these days and long posts will never get read.

So, we hope you’ll drop by again soon.

Maybe we need a “catch phrase” to end all our posts? Let us know if you come up with one!