Pumpkin Carving For Big Kids (Yes, It Can Be Gross…)

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

When my kids were little every holiday seemed to take a lot of work. And in fact, they generally did take more work than they do these days.  In recent years I’ve been lucky to just see their teenage faces in my house on any given holiday, much less share any holiday themed activity with them. I’ve had to get creative when it comes to tricking my kids into doing all that little kid stuff that makes their nostalgic GeekMama feel festive.

Some holidays are easier than others. Once I found the recipe for dyeing Easter eggs using Kool-aid packets, the complaints about a vinegar infused house went away and I had more willing participants. The year my youngest had just about decided he was too old to make a Valentine box for school, we decided to throw Lego bricks into the mix and his excitement blossomed. And because I have quite a few children of the male variety in my house, sometimes silly holiday foods win them over.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

I hit the perfect storm when it came to Halloween. The year my kids figured out they could skip the schlepping to all the neighbors’ houses and get all the candy they wanted if they just found Mom’s candy hiding place (behind the pots and pans in the bottom cupboard), there was a shift in the excitement about Halloween. They no longer found joy in dressing up as their favorite cartoon character. As for carving pumpkins? Well, that was something only little kids did.  I assumed we’d officially said goodbye to doing fun activities on that special night at the end of October. But then that perfect storm hit.

Photo: Judy Berna  Her son is the one on the right.
Photo: Judy Berna Her son is the one on the right.

Earlier that year I had started a new job, working at our local library. That was also the year we bought an old farm house in Upstate New York, choosing to do all the renovation work ourselves.

You wouldn’t think those two facts would relate to each other, but let me tell you, they did. And they saved Halloween for this holiday loving GeekMama.

First, I saw an amazing book cross the desk at the library. It was called Extreme Pumpkins. I checked it out immediately and took it home.  Soon I discovered there was a sequel, called Extreme Pumpkins II, followed by the release in 2009 of Extreme Halloween.

Photo: Tom Nardone
Photo: Tom Nardone

Tom Nardone, the books’ author, is a genius. Well, he’s a guy who likes to take pumpkins and do creative, funny, and, yes, gory things to them. The genius part came when he decided to put his ideas in books, and then start up a website called ExtremePumpkins.com. It’s all the fun and excitement of being creative with autumn fruit, but with some vulgar humor thrown in for good measure.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

Next, the house renovations. With huge house renovations come large piles of tools. As I was pushing the piles of drills and reciprocating saws to the far end of the table, so we could carve pumpkins that year, it occurred to me that we could use those tools instead of the wimpy carving tools we had purchased in the grocery store aisle. After an afternoon of digging around on the Extreme Pumpkins website, we found a whole section about using power tools to carve pumpkins. Tom offers great tips, tricks, and safety suggestions. After all, I wanted the teenagers to be more excited about the holiday, not have it be the back story to how they lost a couple of fingers in a painful drill accident.

One of the first posts I wrote about celebrating holidays with older kids is full of pictures demonstrating what the holiday looks like once the Dora costumes and smiling plastic pumpkin buckets have flown the coop. Squeamish folks and fruit activists should look away.

Photo: Judy Berna
Photo: Judy Berna

I know I’m not the only GeekMom out there who spends her time cruising around Pinterest, looking for any way to get her older kids more involved in the fun stuff that make priceless holiday memories. The power tools are plugged in and ready to go this weekend. Assuming I can talk the teenagers into staying home for a few hours, we might have some pretty fun creations to share on Facebook when Monday morning rolls around.

Then I’ll be back to searching. In the midst of folding laundry, writing on my next book, and keeping the cupboards stocked with food, I’ll be looking for holiday activities with a Thanksgiving theme. Assuming this is not the year one of us loses a finger while “carving” a pumpkin, we should have some nice hand tracings that we can turn into turkey pictures. Bring on the craft feathers and googly eyes. Oh, and hide the family car keys.

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