Sunday, October 24, 2010

Five Lessons Learned From This Year’s Pumpkin Patch Experience

Last weekend my husband and I took our daughter to a pumpkin patch. Our experience taught us some lessons for next year’s visit.

Lesson #1: Don’t choose a Saturday afternoon on the only open football weekend of the month when you live in a college town.
When we arrived we were overwhelmed at the line. It wrapped around the barn and went the length of the farm. Last year we went one afternoon mid week, and it never occurred to us to do the same this year. It was a gorgeous day and heading there last Saturday sounded like a terrific idea. We must be getting dumber due to the amount of sleep we’ve missed over the last two years.

Lesson #2: Don’t make small talk with the other people in line. You have absolutely nowhere to escape.
My husband and I took turns running around with our daughter while the other stood in line. When it was my turn to wait I turned to the guy behind me and said hello out of sheer boredom. Big mistake. I learned more than I could ever want to know about the self-proclaimed fantastic father with perfect children. I know his son is the “toughest boy in middle school” because he kept playing football through a broken arm. And his daughter is a “brilliant sophomore who has already been asked to take the SAT from Duke University.” His kids’ highlights list went on and on until he stopped to point out that my daughter was being difficult. “Hey, isn’t that your family?” he asked. I spotted my daughter plop down on the ground in frustration and my husband try to coax her to stand up. He would go to pick her up, and she’d respond by going limp. Classic.

Lesson #3: Don’t talk an experience up so much to a toddler who expects immediate gratification.
Part of the delay was because we were all in one big trying-to-stay-happy line. Regardless of what you and your family were or weren’t doing, we all were stuck in the same line together. Once we made it to the front and paid we were directed to the second hayride only line. I'm not even kidding. This line required more creative diversion since we could actually watch people get on and off their hayride. I had to pull out my break-glass-in-case-of-emergency snack.

Lesson #4: Pack more snacks.
We'd had apple slices and string cheese on the way to the farm and honestly had no idea we’d have to wait for so long. I worried when I pulled out the rice cake from my bag knowing that was it. We were nearing dinnertime by now and hadn’t even made it on the wagon yet. Fortunately, once we were at the pumpkin patch, the hundreds of gorgeous pumpkins took my daughter’s freakishly amazing internal clock mind off the fact that it was after 6:00 p.m.

Lesson #5: Stay away from the crazies!
Despite the ridiculous wait we had a fantastic time. My daughter ran around the patch giggling and selected the best pumpkin. When we got in our third and final back to the farm hayride line we heard a lady shouting.

Surrounded by her nervous-looking husband and three children (God help those children.) she was furious at the teenage tractor driver, who was maintaining the farm’s no ticket, no pumpkin policy. Besides her ridiculous ranting I couldn’t help but notice she’d selected white high heel sandals to coordinate with skin-tight jeans she’d rolled up mid-calf. Classy. First of all who wears heels to a pumpkin patch? And secondly, I don’t care what Stacy and Clinton say, white shoes after Labor Day is just all kinds of wrong. But her attire was really the least of our concerns.

It didn’t take us long to learn she had “lost” her pumpkin tickets. There they stood; both she and her husband had a pumpkin and each kid had one, yet no one had a ticket. The crazy lady then began dropping F-bombs. “I’m not leavin’ here without these f-ing pumpkins! I paid for these f-ing pumpkins!” We were fortunate to be up for the next wagon and hustled to climb on board. I worried our daughter who likes to mimic just about everything would pick up that word. I wouldn’t know how to explain to her grandparents or teachers if she said she got an f-ing pumpkin at the pumpkin patch. Fortunately, she was oblivious to the scene.

This entire week I’ve worried about the crazy lady’s kids and wondered if they ever got a pumpkin. I’ve doubted but hoped that woman was horrified and ashamed of her behavior. And I’ve wondered if she put away those hideous shoes.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

TO DO: Stop With the Clark W. Griswold-Like Expectations

My husband finds my occasional grandiose and unrealistic expectations (or as he likes to call it, my "Clark W. Griswold Syndrome") both humorous and frustrating. I can't blame him, so do I. If you don't know Clark W. Griswold, you should. Check out Chevy Chase's character in Christmas Vacation and the original National Lampoon's Vacation. I think you can do without watching the rest.

I suppose it does happen to me more than I’d like to admit. Take yesterday afternoon for example. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. The weather was perfect, and I'd called my husband to try to sell him on changing our evening plans. I didn’t want to waste the fantastic fall day with him going home to mow and my daughter and me grocery shopping. He agreed that we would meet at home, change clothes, let our dog out and then go for an early dinner and to choose a few pumpkins. It was October 1 after all.

Smiling from ear to ear, I pulled into my daughter's school eager to get my hands on my sweet girl and already coming up with some good, kid-friendly patio options. I quickly realized that she had some evening plans of her own and was not at all interested in anything other than going and staying home. Perfect. I'd already imagined her running around the pumpkins and selecting a few to sit proudly on our front porch and await being carved in the next few weeks. I could also throw out my visions of a wonderful salad topped with a piece of perfectly grilled salmon, some great bread with butter and a nice glass of wine.

My husband came home and tried to salvage the beginning of the weekend. By then, his two girls were not in the best of moods. (I'll save you the specifics.) Our changed plans ended up being a productive evening of cleaning the house while our daughter watched Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. (I will admit a little anxiety when I realized my loving husband had purchased the Choo Choo Express episode from iTunes while I had secretly been counting down the days for that one to be removed from On Demand.) We ate pizza, and I at least I did have vino, even if it did have to come from the box in my own kitchen.

Other examples of my Clark W. Griswold-like behavior include when I decided she and I would bake and decorate cupcakes. She’s not even two years old yet so the kitchen and both of us ended up covered in the batter, the icing and sprinkles. Or when I bought the huge 32 count sidewalk chalk and imagined our beautiful driveway art. She made one, two-inch mark and was finished but somehow managed to have it all over herself. There was also the time I couldn't resist the overpriced, but precious and washable stuffed lovie, even after my daughter showed no interest whatsoever.

I agree that it's something I need to work on. I think I'll be fine until December when it'll be time to "[kick] off our fun old fashion family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols."