We kind of dropped the ball on all of the fall activities this year.  When I write drop the ball, that translates to: we didn’t do anything at all.  Between homeschool, lots (and lots and lots) of doctor/therapy appointments, and the home renovation projects, the entire season was here and gone before we knew it.  So yesterday, we attempted to redeem ourselves with a trip to the local corn maze, AKA the best corn maze ever.

We’ve been several times before, but this was the first time that we visited during the day.  This was also the first time that we actually finished the corn maze!  We even got to sign the board at the end, yay for us!  The theme this year was pirates, and we all agree that it was our favorite so far.  We managed to find all of the clues and we even ran into Jack Sparrow!  We just had a super time meandering our way through the corn paths.  The weather was perfect, and it was a terrific way to spend the afternoon on Dumpling’s birthday!

Living in the country means we need to travel to another neighborhood if we want to trick-or-treat.  We just don’t have enough neighbors!  We drove to our old neighborhood last year, but neither hubby nor I were really feeling that again this year.  So we made the executive decision to stay home for Halloween.  The kids were a little disappointed, but they were really good sports about it.  They did still get to dress up for our church’s trunk-or-treat though, and came home with a smaller, more reasonable candy loot that we won’t have to throw away or donate!

So instead of trick-or-treating this year, we made a country Halloween at home!  We built a nice fire, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for s’mores, and carved pumpkins.  The kids also rode the 4-wheelers, played laser tag, and had a blast with flashlight hide-n-seek.  We sat around the fire and chatted and just had a great time.  Our hope is that creating a new tradition will make our humble country Halloween something that everyone looks forward to each year!

Happy Halloween from Alena of Avalor, Jack Sparrow, Harry Potter, and Marshall from Paw Patrol!

We made our way to DC over the weekend to visit one of our favorites – the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.  We’ve been studying astronomy this year in science, so it was the perfect field trip to help tie everything together.  Plus, we hadn’t been to DC since before Dumpling came home!  In fact, the last time I was there was for a quick turnaround trip with my Daddy to pick up passports for the three older kiddos for our China trip.  He always loved any excuse to visit DC.  Oh, how I miss him!  He especially loved the Air and Space Museum, so it was a little bittersweet to walk back through its doors.  I saw so many things I know he loved.

We were able to see most of the exhibits, but our favorite experience was the planetarium.  I personally have always loved it as well, but the children especially commented about how interesting the show was.  I so enjoyed being able to share that with them.  After exploring the museum, we ate a picnic lunch out on the mall with some of our homeschool friends.  The weather was simply spectacular and the afternoon was just perfect.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day!

This guy.  He officially joins his sister in the double digits club today.  That reality hardly seems true because I cannot fathom how the time has passed so quickly!  It’s difficult to describe how proud I am to be this boy’s mama.  Watching him blossom is simply spectacular.  He is such a cool kid and so delightful to spend time with.  He looks for any opportunity to hang out and is always willing to lend a helping hand.  He is grace-giving and merciful.  He makes time for others and always does his best to see that justice is served.  He’s a wonderful sidekick and gives me so much joy.  His gentle and compassionate soul constantly inspires me to be a better person.  He is more than anyone could ask for in a son.  I am so thankful and honored that the Father has allowed me to be his mama.  What a gift he is.  Happy birthday, my sweet, precious son!

Chinese Mid-Autumn Moon Festival is quickly approaching on October 4th!  Tomorrow!  As we send our children off to school with love (or in my case, send them to the dining room table), I can’t help but reflect on all for which I’m thankful.  During this incredibly busy season, the famous Moon Festival holiday offers an opportunity to take a break and simply be grateful for our family and all of our blessings.

Mid-Autumn Moon Festival dates back to the Tang Dynasty in 618AD, and is a very popular celebration of thanksgiving and gratitude for the Chinese.  Families reunite and give thanks for the harvest and family unity.  The holiday falls on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month (in September or October) when the moon is brightest and fullest in the sky.  Moon Festival is celebrated on this day because the big, round moon symbolizes togetherness and reunion in the Chinese culture.  Celebrations are made by joining together to look at the moon in the evening while chatting and visiting with one another.  People share dinner together, eat traditional moon cakes and a few other delicious treats, and tell old legends of the Jade Rabbit and Chang’e that make up some of the Moon Festival traditions.

I simply adore the themes of family togetherness and thankfulness.  Even though we aren’t in China, the Moon Festival offers an opportunity to be intentional in sharing those themes with our loved ones.  It’s a time when we can share with our children about how appreciated and valued they are.  In addition, Moon Festival presents a creative potential gateway into the sometimes difficult conversations of first families for our children who were adopted from China.

Because although the holiday is meant to represent thankfulness for families, it has the possibility of representing loss for many of our children as they think about their first families.  Why not take the opportunity to be available for that dialogue, if our children will give us the honor?  Reading the beautifully illustrated adoption book, We See the Moon, might be a fantastic way to begin.  It isn’t a traditional Moon Festival children’s book, but it fits perfectly as it eloquently and sensitively addresses difficult first family questions from a child’s perspective.

There are other fun ways that Mid-Autumn Moon Festival could be recognized as well:

  1. Read Moon Festival children’s books together.
  2. Decorate your home with a few traditional Chinese lanterns that commemorate Chang’e.
  3. Or make your own lanterns together.  Idea 1, Idea 2, Idea 3, Idea 4, Idea 5, Idea 6, Idea 7
  4. Craft a sweet art project together.
  5. Buy traditional Moon Cakes from a local Chinese grocery store or order them online.
  6. Or spend an afternoon baking delicious Moon Cookies together.  (Our family loves these as an alternative to Moon Cakes.)
  7. Sip tea together (and munch on Moon Cookies!).
  8. Go out for Chinese food at a local restaurant, or cook your own feast at home.
  9. Host a moonlit picnic for family or close friends.  Include round foods like apples, pears, grapes, and melons.  Consider reading some Chinese poetry aloud too.
  10. Roast marshmallows (another round food) over a fire pit in the evening.

This is a fantastic time to create family traditions, no matter how simple or extravagant they may be.  Weaving Chinese holidays into our family celebrations doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming, especially as different seasons of our lives bring different challenges.  Even though celebrating Moon Festival in our family doesn’t look like it does in China, the point is that we are together.  Being grateful for one another and showing each other how valued we are is what truly matters.

Zhōng qiū jié kuài lè! Happy Moon Festival, my friends!