Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Happy Moon Festival

Happy Chinese Moon Festival

It's also known as the Mid-autumn Festival or Lantern Festival. Chinese culture is deeply imbedded in traditional festivals. Just like Christmas and Thanksgiving to us, the Moon Festival is one of the most important traditional events for the Chinese.

The Moon Festival is full of legendary stories. Legend says that Chang Er flew to the moon, where she has lived ever since. You might see her dancing on the moon during the Moon Festival.

Farmers celebrate the end of the summer harvesting season on this date. Traditionally, on this day, Chinese family members and friends will gather to admire the bright mid-autumn harvest moon, and eat moon cakes and have family reunions. Accompanying the celebration, there are additional cultural or regional customs, such as:
• Eating moon cakes outside under the moon
• Carrying brightly lit lanterns through the village
• Burning incense in reverence to deities
• Planting Mid-Autumn trees
• Lighting lanterns on towers
• Fire Dragon Dances

Last night we celebrated the Chinese Moon Festival with some friends at a local Chinese restaurant and even indulged in some Moon Cakes (similar to our tradition of Pecan Pie and Pumpkin Pie for Thanksgiving) that a friend brought along.

Typical mooncakes are round or rectangular pastries, about the size of you palm and about 1’ think. A thick filling usually made from lotus paste, red or black bean paste and is surrounded by a relatively thin crust and may contain egg yolks (representing the full moon). Mooncakes are rich, heavy, and dense compared with most cakes and pastries we are used to. They are usually eaten in small wedges accompanied by Chinese tea. They can take up to a week to make and labor intensive. These cakes can be very expensive and very few Chinese know how to make them property. Given the intensity to make them and the expense, most bakeries in China have a payment plan and local villagers start paying for next years mooncakes the day after the current years festival, to ensure they have mooncakes for next years celebration.

It was a great evening with friends, family, and lots of little ones. You can imagine we were the entertainment for the evening at the restaurant with 4 adopted Chinese little girls and two very playful little boys. Even the employees would come out of the kitchen to see what the going on’s of the girls and of course watch us Midwesterners attempt to eat Mooncakes. I might add certainly is an acquired taste.

Until next time, Happy Moon Festival and Happy Hump Day.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Where's Waldo?

Where's Waldo
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Here we are!

Hello Friends and Family – I apologize for the going on’s and on’s, but we have been busy.

I will start with Apartment life….wow – I certainly have gotten older and grumpier and just let me say, it’s not a place for me and our kids. We are too loud, to rough, and NEED space (mostly mama needs some space and you just don’t get it here). However, we do fit in nicely with our neighbors. The lady upstairs (Mrs. McBowler), you know right directly above us……she either is a manic and moves her furniture at all hours of the day and night or has a bowling ally up there and I have explained how small this place is, so she paces back and forth and stomps. Personally, I think she hears the kids, and that is her way of telling us it’s too loud. Boy, could we out noise her. The lady across the hall (cat lady) has this huge dog. I don’t know the breed, but it’s big enough to scare you when you here his bark. That being said, she has told me that she is feeding a stray cat and it’s finally coming to her, hence why there is a bed, a bowl of water, a pet carrier, and a food out underneath their stairs. So, I ask her, how long have you been feeding this stray…thinking it has a home and will find it soon. She tells me, 9 months……WHAT? I just started laughing and said “it’s your cat now”. According to Robb this cat has had kittens somewhere and brings them up for meals. The kids and I have yet to see them, so we think he is making it up and seeing squirrels. Then the people on the other side of us moved in the middle of the night. Well, not to middle of the night but we all did come home from an evening out one night and they were moving by the light of their car headlights. I would say that is a yellow flag. Since their move, we have had the privilege of telling a parole officer, the county Sherriff, and our local cable company that no one lives there and it’s empty. Therefore, with all the above stated, Robb and I have come up with a questionnaire that we will use if ever in this situation again before picking the place we move into. I must admit, it is kind of fun making up the stories and telling the kids why this or that is happening. Jacob really thinks they have a bowling ally upstairs and Isabella is smitten’ with the kitty cat.

On the house front…..we got word last week that the development that we are wanting to build in won’t be building into their second phase until well into to next year. So, we have decided to jump that ship and start looking elsewhere. We are sadden by the thought of not living there and we fell in love with the house that we had drawn up, but given the ABOVE….I can’t wait until next year to even start building a house. Therefore, we are spending our evenings looking at homes and weekends walking through them, nothing yet, but hopefully soon. Fortunately for us, we keep getting told (yet to see for myself) it's a "Buyers market'.

Whew – Let me see if I can remember what all we have been up to this last month. Oh yea, we have a new baby boy cousin in the family. He is so super cute and the kids love him. Jacob is still trying to figure out how Auntie had a baby in her belly FOREVER and now he is here to play with. I am saving that story for another day, as it is now, I answer anywhere for 50 to 100 questions a day similar to the above.

We visited a local fire department and took a tour of the fire house. The fascination with the kids was that they had a kitchen and a television. The kids got to go through some of the trucks, and got a lesson on fire safety as well as see a fireperson all dressed up incase one ever comes to our house to help and were instructed to not be scared. Jacob wants to know if they have a badge so when they knock on the door he will know if he can answer it or not.

We have also had a High School Musical Party. At four years of age, Disney has gotten to him…..and he has waited all summer to see a Musical movie. So, we had the cousins and some friends stopped by. We had about 6 adults and 5 kids in this tiny place and occasionally someone would watch the musical. According to Jacob’s party throwing abilities, we had to have balloons, pizza, milk, and cupcakes. So, we obliged and had a nice time with everyone.

We had one last BBQ, end of the summer swim and had some friends over. It reminded Robb and I of our younger days when we lived in apartments w/o kids and would have anywhere from 20 people over to watch football and grill all day. So, that night we were setting the table we were discussing the only thing that has changed in 17 years is kids and we have now have furniture. It was a nice evening; we experienced apartment pool etiquette with five kids and five adults. It was a man on man defense and no one got hurt. However, I must say, apartment hot tubs and pools….we weren’t the norm bringing in all the kids. Needless to say, we wore the kids out and came home for ice cream cones to end last summer swim night.

During this past month, we have said good bye to some friends. A family that we met through adoption will be moving south for bigger employment opportunity. The girls all got together for a breakfast and to say our goodbyes. We will miss them and certainly look forward to having a place to come visit.

Then we also lost a friend to cancer this month. Well, she really was a mother to me, but at this age, I feel like using the word friend. She was a loving wife for over 40 years, a mother to 7 wonderful children, a grandmother to 9 and a mom to many, many kids. I met this beautiful soul when I was 5 years old. We were on a field trip to the zoo and my partner was ill and her daughter needed a partner. So, she paired us together. Well, since then we were all inseparable. I was just thrown in their big family as if I was one of them. I would be disciplined, lectured, taught right from wrong, learned to cook, shopped, and even taken care of like I was just part of the family. I even was moved away a couple times during this time and she still managed to make sure I was okay and to take care of me. The greatest thing about this lady, is I wasn’t the only lost soul she took in, there were many, many that she saved from lord only knows. She lived her life for her family, her extended family, and her faith. She has helped me form into the mom I am today and I can only wish to be half the mom she ever was. Even her last months, she was still being a mom to me, and wanting to see my kids, and make sure they were doing well. We will miss you dear friend and know that we loved you like a real MOM. Thank you so much to your dear, dear, family for sharing her with us all these years. I know it must not have been easy always sharing your mother but I am a better person today for having knowing her and your family.

Robb, Jacob, and Isabella took their first trip to the Zoo this year (I took the day off and went out shopping with friends). They played with cousins, fed the birds, and had a picnic lunch. I heard it as great and must admit I was a bit jealous. Robb always does such a great job with them when I am away.

Then finally, last but not least…we visited an apple orchard this week. It was a great day with friends and we saw a lot of things, from farm animals, pumpkins, apple trees, and a hay ride on a big tractor. I must say, that day was a filled with fun and a great nap that afternoon.

Oh yes, one more thing….as you can and can not see from the photos there are a few things we just can’t leave home with out….Jacob has this almost unhealthy relationship with an old cell phone of mine that he calls his walkie talkie. The reason I say ‘unhealthy’ is I am going to hang him up by his toes because of it. It’s not that the ‘walkie talkie’ goes with us every where, it’s we have to pick our clothing around it. The back pockets have to be big and open so that he can slip the thing in and out fast in case there is an emergency and he needs to call anyone. It’s insane, so with this one I have thrown up the white flag and he now picks his own clothes out and dresses himself – some day’s its pretty creative in the clothing department. My only rule is it has to be clean, or he would wear the same orange shorts every day. Then little miss Isabella can not leave the house with out a purse, a phone in her purse, her sun glasses on, only to be worn upside down because that is how they fit her best, and a bracelet on her right arm. It takes more to get out of the house than to actually get ready for the day.

As you can see we are still plugging away here living life. We are all doing well and spending much more time together as a family. So, this little hiatus from a house does after all have a silver lining.