A Fall Family Day

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One of the biggest joys of parenthood, Dennis and I have found, is witnessing our children reflect back to us the values we hold dear. This past Sunday, we got to experience this several times and it made for a magical, memorable day.

After leaving church, we discussed our plans for the day. Although it cooled off last week, the weather in San Diego during October can still be hot, so you can’t carve your pumpkins very far in advance.  Being from Humboldt, it was shocking to me the first time our carved pumpkins rotted and collapsed within a day or two!   So, we figured the day before Halloween was safest and suggested we carve pumpkins that afternoon. The kids cheered with enthusiasm!

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Their initial excitement fell when it became clear that Sienna misunderstood. She thought we were headed for the pumpkin patch.  We have visited Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center every fall since before the kids were born.  Sienna had made eight previous visits, so the tradition was well ingrained.  Because of soccer games on Saturday mornings and church on Sunday, we hadn’t been able to fit in a trip this year.  Then, in early October, we’d taken a trip to Julian with our good friends only to discover they were out of apples!  A visit to their local pumpkin patch salvaged the trip and we figured that could take the place of our annual trip to Bates this year.

“You can’t get pumpkins from a store!” Sienna said, indignantly.

“Actually, you can. We’ll stop by Trader Joe’s on the way home.” I replied.

“But, it’s not the same. There are just sad little pumpkins at the store.  Good pumpkins come from a pumpkin patch.”

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I looked back at our sulking daughter. Then, thankfully, I was in the moment and open rather than in my head and fixed on a certain plan for the day. It was cool and cloudy – which is key because we’d spent many times at the patch in 85 degree weather and it was already late in the morning.  There wasn’t a reason we couldn’t decide to go head up to Bates.   After a quick consultation with Dennis and an agreement that we’d just go and not have expectations, knowing that it could be crowded, the pumpkins picked over, etc., we announced “Okay, let’s go to the pumpkin patch!”

We told Sienna, “Thank you for reminding us how important this family tradition is. We love that you love it, sweet girl.”  She beamed.

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We had to make a quick stop at Target (is there such a thing?!) to get carving supplies. On the way out of the store, we saw a gentleman collecting money for veteran’s suffering from PTSD and other conditions.  Teo asked what he was doing and we explained.  Living in San Diego, the military is all around us and Dennis served in the Marine Corps, so Teo is very interested in all things military. He had just used a few dollars to purchase a toy and had his change in his pocket. “I have a dollar left of my allowance. Can I give it to him?”

“Of course,” I replied as we approached the donation box on the table. Teo asked what the sign said (He’s super interested in words now that he’s starting to learn to read!).  I read it to him but didn’t go into a lot of detail about what PTSD was.  After putting his dollar into the slot, Teo said, “Maybe I’ll have that one day.”

I signed deeply and held his hand. “We pray you don’t, but you just helped someone who does.” Oh, my heart.

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Bates Nut Farm is super cool. They have a big general store that sells all sorts of nuts, dried fruit, candy, and other food items, as well as seasonal decor.  The back part of the store is always filled with Christmas decorations and is our favorite part.  We spent a good half an hour exploring the Christmas displays and showing one another our discoveries.  When we came to a display of nativity scenes of all shapes and sizes, Sienna zeroed in on a small figurine of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and was captivated.

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“Mom, do I have enough allowance saved for this?” she asked hopefully.

“Let’s see,” I said turning it over and learning it cost $23.00. “You just about have enough at home in your spending category. Do you want to spend it all on this?” I asked.

“Yes! But, I don’t have the money with me,” she sadly replied.

“I can buy it for you now and you can pay me back when we get home,” I suggested.

“Really?! Yes, I want to get it.”

“Okay, but are you sure you want to spend all your money?” I asked, recalling that she’d been talking about saving for another set of Calico Critters.

“Yes. This is so much more special than a toy,” she stated.

I felt an inclination to offer to split the cost of the nativity figurine with her. I loved that she wanted it and somehow wanted to reward her.  Then I thought, no.  This is something special and valuable to her and she’s willing to spend the money she earned for it.  To take that away from her would diminish her sense of ownership of her treasure.

When we got home, after a little while, I remembered that she needed to repay me. Again, I felt a desire not to make her pay for the figurine; maybe it came from a place of wanting to gift it to her…?  But again, I realized that she would cherish it all the more because of her decision to spend the money she earned on it.  “Sienna, remember you’re going to pay me back for your nativity statue,” I told her.

She jumped up from the living room. “Oh yes, Mommy.  I’ll go get it!”  I’ve never seen someone so eager to part with their money.

The clouds gave way to rain while we were up in Valley Center. It was cozy and as fall-like as any day in San Diego can be.  We drugged back to our car with our muddy feet as Sienna asked if we could go home and make apple cider to have while carving our pumpkins.  “It’ll be a fall celebration!” she gushed.

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I loved this day. Being present and connecting with our little family made each of these special moments possible.  There are still days that I’m in my head and striving for control.  But, I’m learning and growing all the time.

When I am living in and accepting the moment as it unfolds, life is more peaceful, I am more deeply connected to my husband and children, and tender moments abound.  I am open to the urging of the Holy Spirit and can respond to the needs and concerns of my loved ones.  When these sweet moments reveal themselves, it confirms my belief that letting go and being present is what I’m called to do.