Swim-goggles and Ork bodies; The truth about the pumpkin patch

Over the years our family has trekked out to various farms and pumpkin-picking locations, but no matter where we go, the basic experience remains the same. If you’ve never hauled your brood off to a farm for family bonding let me explain what fun you’ve been missing. Ready? It will go something like this:

Your young child will wake you up before a sliver of daylight has appeared in the sky. He has figured out that it’s Pumpkin Patch Day.

It’s your fault he knows this, because you have the day circled in red pen on your calendar. Forget the fact that your cherub can’t even read, or that you wrote on the calendar using indecipherable Enigma Code, which required the best military minds of WWII to crack.

You thought writing on the calendar in code would be clever. Nah.

Your 3 year old will crack that code in a nanosecond, knock back whipped cream straight from the can and do a ninja dance on top of your oven. Naked. Then he’ll parade through the house waking up every single sibling shouting  “We’re going to the pumpkin patch todaaaaaay!” Every child can understand this announcement with perfect clarity although your tot can barely speak English.

Now you’re up at the crack of dawn, whether you like it or not. You give each child explicit instructions on how to dress and point them to where their pre-assembled outfits hang freshly pressed and labeled with their name. Socks, underwear, pants, shirt, sweater, shoes and coat. You’ve aimed for clothing colors that are coordinated, in hope of that ONE magical photo that you can use on a Christmas card to send to your ungrateful relatives who don’t even like you.

Despite your simple, direct instructions and well-thought preparations, be assured that one kid will come down in a Cinderella ballgown, pink rubber gloves, swim goggles and a tiara. You have a better chance of field-dressing a Sasquatch than getting that perfect and illusive family photo. The sooner you accept this, the better. Chug some coffee and get over it.

Into the van go three different name-brand baby carriers and a sling. For the baby you load a puffy orange pumpkin costume because your unrealistically optimistic mind can’t let go of a “Baby’s First Autumn” photo to place on your mantle so your Thanksgiving dinner guests can ooh-and-aah while choking down their yams. Also into the van go 8 old towels and 10 plastic garbage bags, because you learned from last year.

Outside it’s dark. It’s dumping buckets of rain, and the air is colder than Jack Frost’s snot. Everyone is bundled in attire perfect for skiing and yet you know by the time you arrive at the pumpkin farm everyone will be sweating in sunny 85 degree weather. The sweat will make them itchy and miserable, so you load 14 more shirt combinations to accommodate various weather outcomes, just in case. Everything is color coordinated, of course, except for your daughter’s light blue Cinderella ballgown and swim goggles. You’re basically screwed with that one. It’s best to load everyone in and move on.

Upon your late arrival to the farm, the kids will pour out and immediately want to run 13 different directions at the exact same moment. Force everyone to freeze and choose your optimum baby-wearing device. Now’s not the time to lose your wits. Keep it together, man.

Steer your brood into the line for the next hayride out to the Pumpkin Field. Dad will go into the barn-turned-produce-stand-and-farm-boutique and buy tickets to the corn maze because it sounds so fun at the time. The little kids spot a distant tractor that pulls miniature train cars painted like drunk cows and want a ride. You have to convince them that the time will come and that first they need to pick out their pumpkins.

Nobody gives a crud about pumpkins anymore because they are doped up on dreams of riding the tractor-cow-train and getting high off the smell of kettle corn, which is layered between the odors of wet hay and cow dung. Ignore their whining and point out the hay wagon that’s coming in your direction. It’s their turn to pick out pumpkins down in the field across the way.


Is that a field? It looks like the stinking marshes that Hobbits trek through on the way to Mordor.

At a distance, you notice the “field” is covered in thick mud and shimmering with water from the morning rainfall. See those orange specks bobbing up and down…way…over…there…? Those are your pumpkins. Betcha didn’t know pumpkins can swim. That kid with the swim goggles on? Way smarter than you are. Apparently she learned from last year too.

Load into the hay wagon and hang on for dear life. You don’t want to know the details about this ride, so I’m leaving them out.

After exiting, one of the small kids will spot a Honey-Bucket nearby and become entirely obsessed with needing to pee. This will be a totally new experience and they will not leave you alone until they have peed while standing in a portable blue sardine can. Ironically, this will be the same child who is ENTIRELY UNMOTIVATED to use the toilet at home, for any reason.

Join the rest of the family and prepare to make the best memories ever. Choosing everyone’s pumpkins will be slightly uneventful…Unless you count the 80 minutes it takes to wade past all the dead Ork bodies in the stinking marshes and the wheelbarrow that won’t quite float or move no matter how strong Dad is. Not to mention the three kids who have slipped and fallen face-first into the mud, or the 4 year old who wants a different pumpkin about every 6 minutes. *REMINDER: Don’t leave all your ski coats out here in the field. You will have several of them laying in the mud at this point and you’ll need to carry them all from this point on. After all, it’s 85 degrees now.*

Pay the $139.76 for the pumpkins and head into the corn maze. Because it is incredibly fun dragging muddy, wet children and toddlers down a smelly path lined with rows and rows of dead corn stalks, for about an hour. Or is it three days? Nobody knows. Hopefully you can get everyone back out before the vultures circle.

Now that the baby is screaming, try and breastfeed holding her with one arm while simultaneously holding onto a Flop Tantruming preschooler who refuses to walk and is sitting criss-cross-applesauce in a puddle. Don’t be shy. Go ahead and nurse while leaning over and trying to yank him back up. I’m sure Google Earth won’t be photographing this day.

After emerging from the corn maze, it will be time for the tractor-cow-train, which is what your young children have really wanted all along. You never can tell how a small person will cope with sitting inside a barrel that’s being towed behind a John Deere tractor driven by a fat man in overalls. If your kiddies start screaming and crying as they go zooming past you, just smile and wave and pretend you don’t hear them. After all, you paid $11 bucks a piece to have this experience, so let them live it and love it. If they vomit, just pretend it was already there when they got in.

You spot a perfect photo op, so line up the muddy, dazed, motion-sick kids and force them to stick their faces into wooden cut-outs of sheep, cows, Indians and pilgrims. It’s nearly a perfect picture, except for the one screaming and foaming at the mouth. Never mind. You can scratch this from your Instagram album.

Last stop is at the barn-turned-produce-stand-and-farm-boutique, where you spend $85 on a home baked apple pie and a jar of apple butter. Control your impulses here because it’s very tempting to go overboard. Like on those LEAVES that are being labeled and sold as festive seasonal decor. Take it from me; don’t spend your money on yard waste. You’ll need that money later to buy wine.

Don’t even consider buying that charming, hand-sewn, red apron that says ‘I Love Autumn’ because it will cost you a kidney, and you need both kidneys to process all the wine you’re about to drink when you get home.

Dad will lay down towels and load the pumpkins into the van. Chilled and muddy kids will begin stripping off their pants in preparation to sit on plastic garbage bags in their seats. Despite all the extra shirts and all the previous years of experiences, you still made a classic blunder and forgot to pack extra pants. Don’t panic. Towels are perfect makeshift skirts. Load everyone in, buckle up, pull up Yanni on Pandora and try to lull the little cherubs to sleep with soft instrumentals and a snack.

Distribute kettle corn onto paper napkins on everyone’s lap and try not to think about the fact that your kids are consuming lap-food with no pants on. Haul everyone home, wake them all up and carry them off to baths and bed.

Next time you see a family of Jack’O’ lanterns gracing the porches of your neighborhood, pause and have a moment of silence for all they went through to get them…unless they cheated, and bought pumpkins at the local Walmart.

The Pumpkin Patch is the perfect place to experience memory-making adventures. Plus it gives you extra reasons to buy a truck-load of dark chocolate and wine; not to mention giving your children plenty of stories to tell their grandchildren. Or their therapists.


The land of speedways and broken dreams


If you ever start feeling like you have the goofiest, craziest, most dysfunctional family in the world, all you have to do is go to a state fair. Because five minutes at the fair, you’ll be going, ‘you know, we’re alright. We are dang near royalty.’~Jeff Foxworthy

So here’s how it all went down.

Mr.Diaz’ company sponsors a car that races at the Evergreen Speedway, a track about an hour away from our home. It’s basically amateur NASCAR wannabes who drive beat up cars around different track configurations. We could get tickets for half-price and since half of our family is under 5 years old, their tickets would be totally free. So….awesomeness. I mean, it’s not like I have a better way to spend a Saturday night, like, you know, reading or something.

“It will be fun,” Mr. Diaz said. “The kids will love it.”

Sure it will. What’s not to love?

So we loaded up our crew into our giant, really cool 15 passenger van and made the trek out to The Land of Speedways And Broken Dreams.

As we emerged from our van  and got into the line of people waiting to buy tickets, instantly one thing was made very clear. We were hands down the best dressed people in town. And if you know us, and have seen what we look like collectively on any given day, that’s saying a lot.

The air was filled with a sweet aroma of excitement and anticipation. Wait…wait...
No, no it was not. The aroma was grilled onions, beer and BO.

Shorty-shorts exposed massive amounts of cellulite, and butt-cracks  and cleavage tattoos abounded in nearly every visable direction. Yes, I can speak on this as I have a bit of my own postpartum flab that I don’t believe I should subject the general public to. You’re welcome. One woman breast fed her baby while standing up, without a cover. Okay, so that’s not so bad, and I have to say: If you’re gonna whip it out in public and leave it hanging out the top of your wife-beater, nursing  is the ONLY acceptable reason to do so. Unless your child is old enough to be drinking milk out of a glass. In which case, you may want to consider not nursing while standing in a line to buy tickets.

So we took our place to wait between an old man who was decked out with camouflage in the shape of miniature deer, and a very loud woman who had only 3 teeth, whose grown daughter, Billy Sue, proceeded to pop pimples on her exposed, tattooed shoulders, then have her fiancé help her get the ones she missed. Their excited cursing informed me that this might just be a regular pastime. Mr. Diaz looked at me with a smile, completely oblivious, and I snorted. And laughed silently. Hysterically.
Actually appearing refined in comparison.

Eventually we made it to the ticket booth where we forked over our dollars and had the word ENJOY cattle-branded into the backs of our hands. Even now, days later, I still bear the scar from this. We presented our freshly purchased tickets to a young woman who had bangs that literally stood up 4.5 inches off her head, and made our way past the growing crowd of excited yokels. We moved up to a section of bleachers that was slightly removed from the rest of the assembling rednecks so our little boys would have some room to move around if they got antsy.

And the first-round cars drove out.

The first races were qualifying races, which were interesting to watch, and “our” car, number 22, qualified easily. The boys loved it. This would be great!

I watched a Kettle Corn vendor pop a large quantity of GMO corn in a giant vat, and tried not to watch a very heavy, tattooed couple making-out a few rows ahead of me. We chatted with a few people who were nearby. Everyone seemed friendly and kind. These folks were completely genuine. This was a group of down-to-earth, loving patriots who would give you the very shirt off their backs should the need arise. If they had been wearing shirts, that is.

Mr. Diaz bought a giant bag of the Kettle Corn for all of us to stick our germy hands in, (Delicious!) and everyone returned to their seats so the blessed event could ensue. We watched a man in front of us who could barely walk, spend 20 minutes to climb 800 stairs to sit up at the tippy-top top of the grandstands. The whole time we yelled inside our heads “Good GOD man! Sit down right where you are! Do it! Stop the insanity!”  And just when my cynicism and snark was reaching a whole new level, a man came out, grabbed the microphone from the announcer, and prayed. Out loud. He asked God to protect the drivers and keep everyone safe.

We stood patriotically, hands over our hearts, watching the emblem of our great nation flap in the breeze while a woman in a very sparkly silver tank top crooned out her loosely melodious interpretation  of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Aaahhhh.  America. 

The green flag waved, and the loudest moving vehicles on the face of this green earth took off  driving in a circular motion, over and over and over.  If you know me at all, you know how much I love really. loud. noises. It’s right up there on the top of my list; right above finding hair in my food, eating food made by young children with runny noses, and licking the germs off shopping-cart handles.

Amidst the cacophony, the announcer blurted out incoherent words of some sort that couldn’t possibly be understood by any human person. The kids tightly clutched their ears and I wrapped Chatterbox’s head in a burp cloth and prayed he wouldn’t have everlasting hearing damage. I held my hands over his ears, put my head down next to his and prayed. The entire time. “Dear sweet Jesus, just get me through this.”

Mr. Diaz looked over at me and said something while grinning. Who the heck knows what it was. I can’t read lips that well. Especially when my eyes are squinted from grimacing. So I smiled sweetly and nodded at him and told myself, “You’re not really in Hell.”

And that’s how it was for several hours. Good Lord.

People laughed and drank and enjoyed the revelry. Small (deaf?) children danced and played right up next to the fence that lined the speedway. Cars lost their bumpers and limped off the track.

My boys ate Kettle Corn off the dirty bleachers with their mouths (because their hands were being held over their ears) and I watched as our 22 car, which had a clear lead with only five laps to go, stalled out and wouldn’t start after a red flag stopped every vehicle on the track.  We left shortly after that. Because God heard my prayers.

After one more race of cars (that could rival several jet engines in decibels) drove around in a “circle eight” and very nearly t-boned one another at every pass, we finally headed home.

I will spare you the details about how we are so classy that we ate our dinner at a small, crudely painted burger shack, located in the middle of nowhere, right next to the highway. I’ll also spare you the details about how the picnic tables we used were covered in highway dust and bird droppings. You’re welcome for that too.

That, my friends is how we spent our Red-nex-ican, low-budget, Saturday night family time. Aren’t you glad I shared this with you?

So, Mr. Diaz read this post and said “Fine. I’ll go to the races again, without YOU.”
Now that’s a deal. Where do I sign? I can use that time to go to the local WALMART, because it’s guaranteed to be empty.

Now friends, please don’t get the impression that I’m here on this blog make fun of Rednecks. Nah. I’m here to make fun of everybody. As far as I’m concerned, comedy doesn’t discriminate. Turns out the trip to the Speedway left me with some of the best  family memories writing material I’ve ever had.

We are going again next year, but I’m bringing earplugs. And some camo.

And about a gallon of Purell.