Dos and Don’ts of October Activities

I can’t believe October is coming to a close. It’s always been my favorite month, although when I was teaching it seemed like everything was jam-packed into this month – conferences, starting the remediation program, field trips, end-of-quarter incentives, pep rallies, homecoming, potluck lunches…the list went on and on. I was so looking forward to this first October when school activities wouldn’t overcrowd my schedule. I actually thought I’d have time to savor the beauty of autumn’s beginning. Ha. I should know myself better than that. Somehow, even without teaching, my plate was overflowing once again this month. However, I was determined to start some family fall traditions, and managed to cram them all in this past weekend (a method I don’t necessarily recommend…). So here’s a list of fall activity dos and don’ts…brought to you by real-life experience :).

1. Do: Plan a trip to Silver Dollar City

For those of you who live in the area, you know that this amusement park is at its best during the fall and Christmas season. We got a group of our family together last Saturday and made the trek to Branson, where we enjoyed the most beautiful of fall days. There’s nothing like zooming through the air into a perfectly blue sky, the golden and red leaves on the tree branches almost within your reach!

Don’t: Expect to have the place all to yourself, and know you can’t do everything

We were definitely not the only ones with the idea to spend a perfect fall day at SDC. The place was elbow to elbow, packed with everyone from school groups to senior citizens to babes in arms (we left our babe at home in her grandma’s arms…I think she had a much better day than she would have being stuck in her stroller the whole time without benefit of a good nap). It took us nearly forty-five minutes to get our food at lunch (even though we waited until after 1:30pm to eat!). Surprisingly the lines for the rides weren’t too long, and we rode the “thrill rides” early in the day. Sadly I still haven’t ridden Powder Keg. Although I’ve been assured by many that this is the best ride in the park, every time I’ve gone it’s been closed. It was closed when we first got there on Saturday too, but while we were in line for Wildfire we saw people on it. We hustled back to get in line for “the best rollercoaster in the area,” but halfway through the line they had to shut the ride down again. Talk about disappointing! We felt like the adrenaline gods were conspiring against us. Even though it opened again later in the day, the line was so long we opted not to try again for fear of another extensive and ultimately fruitless wait. Oh well. I guess it gives me something to look forward to…

2. Do: Take pictures of your kids in a pumpkin patch

Sunday we took Charlotte to her first pumpkin patch. It wasn’t quite the glorious day that Saturday had been, rather overcast and gray instead, but we decided we should go ahead and try for the obligatory “pumpkin pictures” anyway. Charlotte started to cry after I set her down near a bunch of gourds (she was probably thinking “What is wrong with Mama? Is she confused, trying to return me to the cabbage patch?) but after I sat her on my lap for a bit she calmed down and got interested in these huge orange globes that were surrounding her. She was too absorbed to smile much, but Chris was still able to get some adorable pictures of her interacting with the pumpkins.

Don’t: Be too attached to the idea of buying pumpkins at the pumpkin patch

Maybe it was because Saturday was such a perfect day and everybody else went and cleaned them out, but when we went Sunday the pumpkin selection was pretty pitiful. At this patch they take you on a wagon ride past a cornfield and around to the backside, where they let you out to presumably wander among the gourds until you find the perfect one. Sadly, of the few dozen pumpkins that were scattered around most were misshapen, damaged, or so huge it would have taken a crane and a backhoe to haul one home and carve it out for a jack-o-lantern. Unless your daughter is going to be Cinderella for Halloween and you want to make her a life-sized coach, I don’t think it would be worth it. I guess since it’s pay by the pound that’s how they make their money. We decided just to take pictures instead, and bought our to-be jack-o-lanterns at a place that had a much better selection and price. Walmart. (Where else?)

3. Do: Spend an evening carving and/or decorating pumpkins

I don’t remember if I blogged about it, but for our anniversary I gave my husband a book of unique date ideas, one for each month. Our October date was to make jack-o-lanterns while sipping pumpkin-spice lattes. I had a slow-cooker recipe for the lattes, but since it served 8-10 we decided it would be more cost effective just to buy them at Starbucks instead. We finished them off before dinner, and didn’t get to the pumpkins until after Charlotte was in bed (babies and cleaning/carving/painting pumpkins just are not a good mix, which we wisely realized before starting the project) but it was a fun evening anyway. We found some Halloween-themed podcasts to listen to while we set to work. My hubby opted to carve his pumpkins, while I decided to paint mine (I’ve never been a fan of sticking my hand into the mass of slimy, wet pumpkin innards and scrapping it all out. Yuck).

Don’t: Try to win any pumpkin-decorating contests

I of course used Pinterest for inspiration, but tried to just enjoy the experience and not worry about perfection. I was tempted to try a chevron pumpkin, but didn’t want to mess with trying to use rulers and painter’s tape to get the points straight, so I decided to free-hand some easier designs instead. The spiderweb turned out the best, since all you have to do is trace over the natural grooves on the pumpkin and then connect the lines, but even though the lines aren’t exactly straight on the plaid and striped pumpkins, I’m still happy with the result. I set them in my planter by the front door as an un-creepy tribute to Halloween. Hopefully they will transition to Thanksgiving decor too, though I’m afraid my husband’s more traditional creations won’t last that long…

I know next October will be different, as we will have a very busy toddler on our hands who will want a much more active role in the festivities. Our activities will be modified somewhat I’m sure (a local park instead of Silver Dollar City, trying to keep Charlotte from choosing a pumpkin that’s bigger than she is, finding safe and kid-friendly ways to decorate said pumpkin while keeping little hands off our lattes) but I hope we can truly establish these October traditions. What fall activities do you try not to miss?

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