Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Great Expectations

As far as *exotic pumpkin patches go, we somehow manage to fail at them every time.

Breakdowns, pouting, fighting, frustrations. Complaints. And utter disappointment,
Every. Single. Time.

I can vividly recall the first time we attempted a massive patch with Arlo as a toddler. The fact that the blow up lion slide allowed only older, taller kids sent him into his first real hysterics. Us, being first time parents of an otherwise perfectly behaved baby, left the place in a panic, near tears wondering how - what should have been a fun loving evening - ended with our sweet boy turning into some kind of demonfolk over a missed turn on a rubber slide.

See, every couple of years I start feeling guilty about our convenient parking lot pumpkin traditions, i.e: Trader Joe's storefront set up (so easy, no fuss, and so much cheaper than what you pay at those patch boutiques) and so I vow to make more of an "effort" to give them a well rounded (dare I say slightly more "authentic") seasonal experience, that includes either of the following:

A. Those bright buzzing tented lots littered with ridiculously overpriced amusement park rides & piles of massively overgrown pumpkins in every shape, color and texture imaginable that suck our wallets dry and leave our heads spinning.
B. In this year's case, Tanaka Farms - a lovely, wide farm lot in the middle of Irvine where I've seen plenty of my friend's kids in photos around Facebook for years now, waving happily atop the wagon, wandering open fields of wild pumpkins, feeding goats and loving every second of their time there.

That, was not us.

From the get go I felt slightly baffled, and eventually annoyed by all the "don't touch" "don't run" "don't jump on hay bail" signs lining our hike around the farm. What? Why? It's a farm for kids after all!
And then I overheard Arlo deem the place "boring" - begging for his skateboard while Leon proceeded to become entirely disgusted by the petting zoo idea we had already paid for (that kid, not a huge fan of animals in general . . . ) while Rex was hell bent on stealing as many pumpkins as possible every time we turned our backs because he believed he must be entitled to a few because, well, wasn't that why we were there in the first place?

By the time we reached the corn maze (and only section of the farm that was actually free) we were one frazzled, dust ridden and noticeably agitated crew. By day's end we had seen our share of fits and more fits. All kinds of pumpkins and one long, begrudging wagon ride around the fields. It took everything in me not to let the bunch of them wander at their own accord along that long, long, long, long corn maze while I stopped to catch my breath, and regain some sense of composure while possible.

Funny thing is, on the way home each of the boys, finally buckled and beat by the sun and their exhausting romp around the farm grounds, seemed strangely content and downright satisfied with the trip on a whole. "That was a fun day, Mommy!" Rex mumbled as we headed back towards the freeway home. Made me realize that sometimes, even though we as parents armed with good intentions and all these grand ideas about what these kinds of trips should entail, are too often setting ourselves up with false expectations. In other words, just because something doesn't play out exactly as we might had envisioned or planned for, doesn't mean it can't still count for something special.

In the long run, memories are complex. Built upon layers of little moments we don't all process the same way. That being the magic of them in the first place.

So I can't say how Tanka Farms might fair in their long term remembrance for the day, but I do know it made an impression. Of some kind. Even if it wasn't really the one I had hoped for.

For now though we're sticking to our trusty Trader Joe's 3$ pumpkin lot. Lit by a single strand of bulb lights glowing at dusk and the cheesy scarecrow in the corner tipping his hat to our little red cart. We are headed there tomorrow, as a matter of fact. Just in time for all the Halloween festivities we have planned for the weekend. One of which includes our neighbor's annual pumpkin carving / costume party. It's a big ordeal. As they go.

Go ahead, wish us luck.

* meaning simply not grocery store / home depot parking lots.

And a sweet thank you to our lovely farm dates stella and lucy for remaining stoic bystanders through each and every Kraus boy meltdown that day. Love you girls.


  1. An example of how photographs can't tell the whole story. Looking at these, I would have imagined that you were doing all the things I'm feeling guilty about not doing this fall. And I would have assumed that you, unlike me, knew how to execute the perfect autumnal day, or any kid outing for that matter.
    This year I'm bound and determined to go cut our own Christmas tree, hoping for that authentic experience, but secretly fearing i care more about the pictures than about what my kids think.

  2. well, no outing with kids is ever perfect. and although pictures sometimes lead you to believe that other families "have it down", if you have kids you know it's simply not true. yes, some days are way better than others but kids are kids. they complain, fight and do all sorts of other annoying things when we are trying to make a day fun and memorable.

    we went to tanaka farms a couple weeks ago. we didn't do any of the things that cost money, we just walked around and went through the disappointing corn maze (did you ever go to the corn maze they use to do in norco? it was awesome, a real corn maze! i wish that still happened because it would be worth the drive). and i bought some kale from the little produce store. we had a nice time. i told ruben that this is the place to take your pictures and then you can go buy your pumpkins at trader joe's :)

  3. Well, the pictures look great at least :-) We went to Tanaka Farms a few years ago and it was fun, but our boys were so young then that they couldn't really throw a big fuss yet and we got some nice shots too. Last Halloween's photos, however, paint a more realistic picture - lots of tears and temper tantrums caught on film.

  4. Isn't it interesting they had a good time? I mean that their judgement of things is so different to ours at times. Really lovely post to read, my good friend told me right when my daughter was born to 'watch out for your expectations.' It doesn't stop being relevant advice. And what's with these silly farms and all their 'no touch, no fun, that'll be 5 bucks' vibe!!

  5. Up here its, Don't climb the apple trees! and this means You! Such a buzz kill. The mosaic of their memories will be beautiful indeed. I pray the same for all of us.

  6. We had a similar experience at a pumpkin patch in Yucaipa. Hot, dusty, crowded to an unholy degree... Why did I think it would be a memorable experience for my 2 week old and 1 year old?! Oh, but I got the best picture of my nap deprived one year old crying on a pumpkin, sitting in front of the "do not sit your child on pumpkins" sign. Take that!