Weekly Gratitude #3: I Just Might Make It

I have enjoyed popping onto social media the past couple days and seeing their Thanksgiving posts.

Some people posted pictures of their Thanksgiving spreads and I have enjoyed looking at them. I am always curious who serves what sides and what pies. I even had a friend post a picture of “apple bombs” that looked like, well, the bomb.

Other people made posts about how grateful they are.

I didn’t get around to posting my finished spread or a gratitude post. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to. I just was busy leading up to the main meal and tiredness overcame me.

My brain is always thinking about deeply philosophical thoughts. I might seem distracted by whatever part of my brain thinks about these things is always running, like a background program on your computer or tablet or phone or whatever your preferred electronic device is.

And true to my Double Virgo perfectionism, I wanted to get my thoughts out correctly.

Over the past week, I have seen various Facebook memories of Thanksgiving pasts pop up.

I thought about how Thanksgiving evolved over my lifetime.

As a child, we would have dinner with extended family. My family rotated Holiday dinners. If we spent Thanksgiving with the Sullivans, then Christmas dinner would be with the Crowley’s that year and then we’d swap Holidays the next year. And we’d always stop in with the other side later in the day as both sets of my grandparents lived in the same town.

Then my grandfather died and we hosted Thanksgiving for a couple of years until we moved to Maine.

Then we had Thanksgiving dinners in Maine with my immediate family and various Holiday orphans for many years.

There was that one year where I was studying in England and I cooked Thanksgiving for 9 people. I learned that putting stuffing in the bird was a huge “no-no” on that side of the pond and that you can’t get canned pumpkin in the UK. We also had mashed swede. I didn’t know what swede was but I said sure. I learned from my friends that swede is a root vegetable. Google tells me that it isa rutabaga.

Then Bryon came into the picture and we spent a couple of Thanksgiving traveling to Maine. We’d listen to Free Beer and Hot Wings Radio Show during the drive because they would have people call in to say how they ruined Thanksgiving. One year we drove him in a blizzard.

Once our daughter was born, my parents and brother drove to New York to visit us. One year they drove in a blizzard.

Then Bryon died.

I didn’t want to host and I also remember that driving to Maine wasn’t an option because I was starting a new job. So we met at my brothers in New Hampshire.

Since then, I spent my grandmother’s last two Thanksgivings with her.

I thought about the traditions.

The old ones like watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the new ones of like going on a shopping trip at the LL Bean Store in Freeport.

I thought about how some recipes have trickled down like my grandmother’s rolls (I was lucky that my uncle took a picture of the recipe from my grandmother’s book and sent it to me. I did locate a used copy on Amazon for $6).

Or certain foods even if I don’t have the actual recipe like creamed onions (don’t use the water, the 3 cups of milk/cream suffice) and chocolate cream pie.

I thought about how Sullivan Thanksgiving had canned cranberry and homemade cranberry sauce because my Uncle Peter refused to eat the canned stuff.

I thought about how I try to recreate the stuffing like Bryon made it.

I thought about how we always had apple cider at Thanksgiving and Christmas on the Sullivan side and there was the one year that my frugal grandmother saved the leftover cider from Thanksgiving for the following Christmas. Yeah…I am sure you can figure out what happened…

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I started thinking about that first Thanksgiving without Bryon.

This was only a little over three months after.

I was coming out of the rawest stage of grief and it was starting to sink in that I was going to have to live the rest of my life without Bryon.

I was not looking forward to the Holidays.

I took over cooking that year, partially because I love to cook and partially to keep myself busy.

I saw this status and I can see just how far I have come.

It was the first day I didn’t cry.

Three years later, those days are still few. I still cry most days though it is different.

My tears are very quick and subtle, usually only lasting a minute or two.

The tears from the early days where of despair.

Now the tears are from a softer, chronic sadness.

Tears because I still miss him.

Tears for Bryon for his life that ended too soon and all that he is missing.

Tears for my daughter because she will grow up not knowing her father.

Tears of compassion for my younger self for all that she endured.

Day to day, it is hard to see how far I have come.

Most days I am busy keeping up with the kindergarten mother life.

I still feel the overall cloud of “ugh” that comes with loss and grief.

And truthfully, I don’t know where I am going or where I will end up.

My life has been a revolving door of change.

In those beginning days I didn’t know of how I was going to survive or if I was even going to survive.

Now I know I am a survivor.

I still don’t know how this story ends.

I am still learning to trust the journey.

I don’t doubt that someday, I will actually make it.

Weekly Gratitude #1

If you have been a longtime reader of my blog (thank you!), you would know that I used to do a weekly gratitude post on Fridays called “Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday.”  It was a fun post to write every week.  I would put in a GIF of Marky Mark. Writing the post gave me a chance to look back on my week and share the highlights.

I stopped doing those posts at the end of 2018.

It wasn’t because I stopped having gratitude.  I just shared a lot about my personal life in those posts.

I didn’t write much because I was burned out.  I went through a lot of change and a lot of healing in 2019.

When Bryon died in 2016, my life changed and I had to heal from that.  Though I will never be 100% healed from that.  Because his death had changed me and his loss will always be in my heart.

2016 will always be the worst year of my life.  (Note to the Universe or God or whoever is in charge- please don’t view this as a challenge to be accepted.  Let it ride).

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2018 was a messy and awkward year. I learned a lot about relationships, human nature and myself.

It was a year that I realized I was totally alone in my grief. Truly alone. Sure, there are people who miss Bryon. Some people miss Bryon a lot. But with all do respect, no one misses Bryon as much as I do.

It’s not rocket science, but psychology does back that up. At least the Social Readjustment Scale does.

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The Social Readjustment Scale ranks life events and rates them based on the stress impact.  Death of Spouse is the number one stresses which ranks 100 on the scale.  Divorce is the second largest stressful event and that ranks at 73 and Marital Separation ranks at 65.  Jail term (63) and Personal Injury (53) round out the top 5.  You can have more than one stressful event and those events can add up to over 100.  But death of spouse is the single most stressful event.

I am not writing these words to be hurtful to those who also miss Bryon.  I am just trying to illustrate the point that his loss was very different for me than anyone else.  Many people are respectful of that, others are not.  Some people are supportive, others are not.  Some people say wonderful things, others said horrible things.

It was a harsh realization when I realized that I was seeking support from the wrong people.  I should have leaned on my online widow tribe more than people who knew Bryon.  Even though our stories are different, we have all experienced level 100 stress.

But this year, I had to turn into myself.

I had to set some boundaries.

This has been a year of change and healing.

I am grateful that I am here.

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And I finally feel inspired to write again.

I truly try to live a life filled with Gratitude.

I thought about bringing back Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday but I decided to retire that series.

I felt like I was just making a weekly list.  Which is fine but I came to the realization that I’d rather pick one thing and delve into it.

And if I ever do feel like making a gratitude list, I can.  Because I am the CEO of this blog.

I was a little sad to start over with a new series. I had 48 Good Vibrations Gratitude Friday and I was hesitant to start over at 1 but life is about change and growth.  I can’t be afraid of change.

I shouldn’t be afraid of change. My life has had enough change over the past couple of years that I feel like I am stuck in a revolving door.

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So I hope you will join me each week and think about the things that you are grateful for.

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Homeostasis

Have you ever had an event that kicked you on your ass?

Or at the very least, knocked you off-balance a bit? It could be a death of a loved one, a divorce or breakup or a job loss.

You may find yourself in a situation where you want to do whatever you can to get back to “normal.”


There is actually a scientific process that describes this.

Homeostasis

Ho * me * o * sta * sis /noun/ the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological process.

I had never heard of the concept of homeostasis until Spring of 2009. I had gone back to school for Health Information Technology and had to take the required Anatomy and Physiology courses. I had spent my 20s underemployed and I started working in a billing office at a local hospital. One of my bosses (and mentors) recommended I go back to school so I could advance my career.

So there I was, looking at an online bulletin board trying to come up with 3 discussion posts on Homeostasis.


After that course concluded, I did not think about homeostasis for a very long time.

Not for another 7 years and three months.

I remember seeing Bryon, critically ill and clinging to his life. Despite unfathomable injury and illness, I could see his body trying to heal.


Even in his fragile state, his body was trying it’s hardest to achieve homeostasis. Of course we know his body was not successful in that feat.


After Bryon died, I looked at the shattered remains of what had been my life and wondered what I needed to do to put those pieces together.


I desperately wanted my life to achieve a state of homeostasis.


Of course, my primary identity was that of wife and mother and without Bryon, homeostasis would not be possible.


I wondered what I needed to do to achieve homeostasis. This seems ridiculous to look back on because my life was in shambles.

At that time, I felt that homeostasis involved being a wife so I figured that after an acceptable amount of time, I would find the next love of my life.

This works for some people but raw, profound grief takes a lot out of you and takes longer than expected.

I was a mess for awhile and I believe that like attracts like so I didn’t want to attract a mess.


I was looking at my Facebook memories the other day. There was a memory from 2017 where I said that when I feel in love again that I wanted it to be at Christmas. While I would love for my life to be a Hallmark movie, it dawned on me that as time goes by, I believe in love a little less each day. But that’s another blog post for another time.

Bryon was my rock and he grounded me.

Bryon had a way of sizing up a situation and making sure things were okay.


If I were upset with people, Bryon would remind me that I was overestimating people and their intelligence and/or loyalty. Sometimes he said things people didn’t like to hear. At times I could find him harsh but he was usually correct. I miss his insight and his loyalty to me, our daughter and those closest to him.


So how could I stabilize my life when my rock was gone?


I am working towards it by making necessary life changes, removing toxic people from my life and doing inner work.


I have often reflected what Bryon would think about many situations going on from political scandals and other news as well as the shenanigans of people we knew.


It dawned on me recently that Bryon was the grounding force for many people. Many people sought his advice.


And it’s no wonder that in some circles I was in, things became off. Everyone is knocked off balance. Bryon isn’t here to ground things. To knock sense into people.


And most of us are probably going through life trying to achieve the elusive state of homeostasis.


But while we physically can achieve homeostasis (and even that is questionable because our bodies are always aging), we are not designed to achieve homeostasis in our psyche.

Our minds and hearts are meant to be expanding. We should be living our lives outside our comfort zones. We should be learning and growing.

True homeostasis is not possible.


So if you are struggling, remember that. You just need to find, as that cliche goes “your new normal.” And as long as you are trying to better yourself, then you will grow.


And you will wind up where you need to be.

Photo by Simon Migaj from Pexels

A message for anyone who needs to hear it

I have no idea who needs this message but it’s here for whoever or whomever needs it.

(And I just googled “whoever vs whomever”. It’s late and I am too tired to make sense of it. I’ll fix this and the multitude of typos and grammar mistakes I am going to make due to the aforementioned tiredness.)

And this is making me think of Dr Frasier Crane, correcting a caller on the difference between “literally” and “figuratively”.

So for those people who want to nitpick my grammer…I got nothing.

Though bonus points if you were amused that the Frasier meme is about grammar since Frasier is played by Kelsey Grammar.

I digress.

It came to me that everyone deserves to be appreciated.

Everyone deserves to be valued.

Everyone deserves to be taken seriously.

When you talk to those you are closest too, you deserved to be listened to.

And what you have to say should be taken seriously.

You might be thinking, “That’s all great Kerry but the world is not all rainbows and smiles. What if people don’t appreciate you?”

And that’s a very valid hypothetical question.

Because not everyone is going to appreciate you.

Because…there are 7 billion people on this planet and there is no way we can appreciate each other.

At least on an intimate, inter-personal level.

I tend to think of it as a sliding scale. Those closer to you should appreciate you more.

Which brings me to the Top 5.

The Top 5 should not be confused with the Top 8…for those of us old enough to remember the MySpace days.

Also, whatever happened to Tom?

I guess he got burned because he way nicer than Mark Zuckerberg. 🤷‍♀️

Anyway, back to the “top 5”.

I am a fan of Jim Rohn’s quote that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

It is so accurate.

But what if those 5 people don’t appreciate you?

Well, then you probably don’t appreciate yourself.

Because you are tolerating not being appreciated.

Remember-

You deserve to be appreciated.

You deserve to be valued.

You deserve to be taken seriously.

When you talk to those you are closest too, you deserve to be listened to.

And what you have to say should be taken seriously.

If those closest to you don’t respect you or appreciate you, you may need to re-evaluate your top 5.

You also should re-evaluate yourself. Maybe you aren’t appreciating those in your life.

Keep yourself surrounded by those who are positive and lift you up.

You won’t be sorry.

10 Do’s and Don’t for helping someone in crisis (or grief).

This blog post is a long time coming.

I have tried to write about this topic so many times but something always stopped me.

I was afraid to be honest.

I didn’t want to seem ungrateful.

Background story

But something recently changed that.

For the past couple of months, my friends mother has been very sick. There was a period of time where my friend didn’t know if her mother was going to live or die.

(Don’t worry. My friend is aware of this blog post. She will not be blind-sided.)

A few months ago, my friends mother went into septic shock.

I spent a lot of time messaging back and forth with my friend. At the time, she was concerned she was burdening me with painful memories. I would be lying if I said that events like this do not stir up painful memories. I remember how lonely I felt when Bryon was in the ICU. I wasn’t physically alone but I was emotionally alone.

I can assure you that you don’t know that kind of fear until you have lived it.

After surviving that experience, I can’t let anyone sit through that experience alone.

So I can push aside all those painful memories and the emotions attached to those memories to help those who are going through similar situations.

(By pushing aside those emotions…I don’t mean push those emotions aside literally. It is import to acknowledge those feelings. Feel them. Then set them aside.)

My friends mother was in the hospital for a couple of months. I offered to help my friend in other ways during this time but my friend said she was okay. I didn’t push. (More on that later in this post)

My friends mother was discharged from the hospital earlier this week.

My friend has messaged me and she thanked me for being there for her. I responded that I felt bad because I did not do enough for her.

My friend’s response was that she disagreed.

She said I helped her and was informative about the experience. I helped her to ask the right questions, especially at a time when her brain could barely think of anything other than not knowing if her mother was going to live or die.

I remember how overwhelmed I was when Bryon was sick. A lot of information was thrown at me.

I pondered this and it all clicked.

I had helped my friend in the way she needed to be helped.

My feeling like I hadn’t done enough to help my friend was about making myself feel better.

I think it is human nature that we try to help people in the ways we think they need to be helped, not in the way they actually need to be helped.

Since I have officially been on both sides of this issue, I feel like I can finally write about this important topic.

  1. Do remember that it’s about THEM and not YOU.

I start with this one because I think all the other items on this list stem from this.

Before you think I am being critical, I want to remind you that I am guilty of doing this.

I am not saying everyone is helping for the wrong reasons. But unless you are Mother Theresa, you are not 100% selfless. To some extent, you are offering to help because  you are trying to make yourself feel better.

I am not saying to not help people.

Your friend or family member, or coworker or neighbor or you friend of the a friend or acquaintance or maybe even a complete stranger is having a hard go and you want help fix the problem. That is a good thing. You are a good person.

Just make sure that you are helping or offering to help to actually help, not to just make yourself feel better. If you feel better in the process, that’s a double win.

I promise you, if you keep reading, this point will make sense by the end of the list.

  1. Do respect boundaries.

Some people are not comfortable asking for help or receiving help. They may not want to accept help. They might be embarrassed to accept help. Our culture encourages us to be independent and stoic. Many of us don’t know how to accept help.

They are most likely overwhelmed.

When you are in the middle of a crisis, it’s hard to think of anything besides the person who is very sick or might die. You may want to help but the truth is, almost everything is the further thing from their mind.

It’s great that you want to help, but don’t push.

Just be ready to help when they are finally ready to accept it.

  1. Do offer specific ways to help.

When someone is going through a trauma, we want to help. We may not know how to help so we have a tendency to say “Let me know if you need anything.” I am guilty of this, even in my post-trauma life. But I am going to explain why this isn’t very helpful.

When someone is going through a trauma or has just experienced a major loss, they may not know what they need. They are overwhelmed. Their life was literally just turned upside down.

When Bryon was in the ICU, I subsisted on iced coffee and those ice cream sundae cones that were sold in the hospital cafeteria. Depending on how well Bryon was doing that day indicated whether I would take the time away to shower and take care of my daily hygiene. I know it’s gross but it’s a reality. Things that are normally viewed as vital take a backseat when you are in crisis.

I knew my parents were taking care of my toddler daughter and my cat. Bryon had scheduled all our monthly payments before he got sick. But I had no clue about anything else and I had no brain power to think of anything other than “is my husband going to live or die”?

You might be wondering, what if the person has died? A widow doesn’t need to worry anymore about the outcome, right?

To give you an example of where my mind was during those early days of widowhood, I lost my phone. My parents and I spent an hour tearing apart the house. I finally found my phone…in the refrigerator. I have no idea why my phone was there.

Also, don’t put your phone in the fridge. My phone was never the same after that. It became possessed and Bryon wasn’t there to fix it for me.

My point is, if you want to help someone going through a trauma or loss, be specific.

Is their lawn overgrown? Offer to mow it.

Is something in their house in disrepair? Offer to fix it.

Want to bring them dinner? Ask them if you can bring dinner on Thursday night or if you can give them a gift card to their favorite restaurant.

Just be specific because it will be a lot easier for the person to say “yes” or “no” than come up with task.

It’s great you want to help but make it easy on the person you are trying to help.

  1. Don’t take it personally if your help isn’t needed.

When someone is going through a trauma or a loss, people offer to help.

A lot of people.

That is great but the person you want to help may be inundated with offers to help. They may already have someone mowing their lawn or bringing them meals. They are most likely grateful for your offer but they are too overwhelmed to think of something else that might need tending to.

I had people get mad at me because they offered to help and I didn’t take them up for it.

I became stressed out that I was offending people because I didn’t take them up on their offers.

You don’t want to put someone who is going through a trauma or loss to feel guilty on top of all the other emotions that come with that crisis.

Don’t take it personally. However, remember to…

  1. Do follow up.

All those people offering to help the person in crisis will eventually disappear. They will move on with their lives and lose interest.

If you are patient, you will get a chance to help.

If you truly want to help the person, follow up every couple of weeks or once a month.

Trust me, there is a good chance this person will need help in the months and even years to follow. A widow will post on Facebook that they need and not get any responses and wonder what happened to all the people at the funeral who offered to help. It happens.

  1. Do follow through

If you promised to help, show up.

I know life happens and sometimes legitimate things pop up that may prevent you from following through. And that’s okay.

But if someone is going through a crisis and you gave your word, trying your hardest to be there.

If you have to back out, try to find a replacement.

The person going through the crisis is counting on you.

When Bryon was in the ICU, I had a friend agree to baby-sit my young daughter. Around the time my friend was supposed to arrive, she texts me and asks if I still needed her to baby-sit.

What?

I affirmed that yes, I still needed her to baby-sit like she agreed to.

My friends started giving excuses. She was a manipulative person in general and she was trying to get me to say something along the lines of “That’s okay. I’ll manage.”

I didn’t. I ended the conversation along the lines of “well you got to do what you got to do.”

The same person offered to help me if I needed it in the future.

I can’t make this up.

I never asked her for a favor again.

And luckily another friend came to the rescue and baby-sat my daughter that evening. In case you were wondering.

  1. Do let go of attachments and expectations.

Here you need to be like Elsa and let it go.

Just help. Don’t worry what the person does with the gift cards or excess food or whatever. Don’t get attached to any outcome. This person is just trying to survive and doesn’t need people breathing down their neck.

An example-

When asked for suggestions on how to help new widows, I always suggest a Target gift card. Because if the widow is financially strapped, she can use it to buy laundry detergent, underwear, cat food, whatever she needs. If she’s okay financially, then she gets some retail therapy. But don’t give her a gift card and tell her how to spend it.

This example leads me to…

  1. Do respect their privacy

Just because you help someone does not mean that you they owe you an explanation on life choices.

If you help someone, it does not mean that you get to ask about their financial situation or their relationship status.

If you help someone, it does not mean that you get a say in their living arrangements or parenting choices.

As Salt N Pepa said:

It ain’t none of your business.

If someone needs your opinion, they will ask for it. End of story.

  1. Don’t keep score.

It’s not like Nike. Just don’t do it.

Let the Karma Gods worry about it. They can keep track on their Google-Doc-In-the-Sky spreadsheet.

If someone is going through a crisis and you help them, I would say that there is a 99.9% chance that this experience will change them forever. They will most likely pay it forward the best to their ability. They are not required to report back to you every time they paid it forward.

Of course, there is the 0.01% chance that the person you helped isn’t profoundly changed.  And if that’s the case, you may just need to accept that you helped an asshole and move on.

If you help someone, it doesn’t mean that you can take the relationship for granted because they “owe” you.

If you help someone and feel the need to keep score, just back away from the relationship. This is where things get toxic.  This isn’t a healthy relationship for anyone involved.

  1. Don’t throw it in their face afterwards.

If you throw the fact that you helped someone in their face, you might be an asshole.

Again. It’s not like Nike. Just don’t do it.

Because, Karma.

If you find yourself in this situation, you suggest you re-evaluate your life and how you treat people.

And if you happen to be the person who accepted help and someone who helped you threw it in your face, walk away from that relationship. It’s not a healthy dynamic.

Final thoughts

I hope this information is useful. The purpose was to help people be the most effective when helping.

I really hope this post did not come across as negative. We are all probably guilty of many of the items on this list.  Don’t feel bad.  As long as you are trying to help people, then you’re heart is in the right place and that is the most important thing.

If you have any suggestions on how to help those in crisis, feel free to drop me a comment.

If you have ever been in a position where you needed to accept help, what did you find useful?

Farewell 2018: Leaving the negativity behind

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2016 was the worst year of my life.

It will always be.

Only one thing could happen to me that could top that but I am not going to entertain that thought.

2017 was a fog.  I was surviving.

2018 was the year that I need to stop surviving and start to live again.

When 2018 started, I had a feeling that things were going to be very different by the end of the year.

I was right.

(Funny how that happens…)

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Was 2018 a bad year for me?

Yes and no.

There was a lot of death.  I lost my grandmother and two friends.

The year was full of hard lessons.

I had to learn that people and things are not always what they purport themselves to be.

I had to learn that I need to look for internal rewards and not to look externally.

I had to learn to release and let go.

I had to learn to live again and make decisions on the direction of my life.

I had shit thrown at me.

But I survived it.  And I am smarter for it.

I learned what was really important.

Seriously, I am 40-year-old woman, who has been to Hell and back and I have a small child dependent on me.  It was time for me to focus on what was important.

Last year I didn’t write much in December.  I was beginning to think this year was going to be the same.  However, I think over the next couple of weeks, as part of the releasing process, I am going to write posts about what I am leaving behind in 2018.

Kind of like a farewell rock tour but less cooler.  A lot less cooler.

I am going to take all the negativity that was thrown my way, put it on an imaginary Viking funeral Ship, light it on fire (again, imaginary.  I don’t want to blamed for starting any fires.) and send it off.

If you have anything you need to release before we begin 2019, I invite you to put them on the imaginary Viking funeral ship.

Fall Fun 2018: Liberty Ridge Farm

Last Friday I got the chance to spend the day at Liberty Ridge Farm in Schaghticoke, NY.

My daughter’s Pre-K class was having a field trip there. We were lucky to have beautiful weather.

Best selfie ever.

Lots of playtime.

This gal here taught my daughter not to put her fingers inside the fence.

Waiting for the pig races.

GO HOGZILLA!!!

Or were we cheering for “Pork chop”…?

I had planned to stop at Mr. Subb in the morning. I thought it opened at 9 am but it turned out it opened at 9:30 and that was too late.

I was (and still am) sick so I needed a tea. We stopped at Starbucks and I let her pick out a box lunch. Of course I ended up being an expensive lunch. But my daughter enjoyed her lunch so I guess that is all that matters. 🤷‍♀️

I wasn’t trying to be boujee. I promise.

The corn house was a hit.

So much that some of the corn made it home.

Fun with her best friend.

And at the end of a day, we got a pumpkin. Actually children and parents each got one but my daughter claimed both.

It was a great day.