“Mom!! When are we going apple picking and pumpkin picking?”
“Soon kids. Soon.”
Time was running out. The last of apple picking season was upon us and I knew that first frost was days away and I had promised the kids we would fit in apple picking this year. But birthday party after birthday party. Family events. Weather. You name it, it probably happened over a four-week period preventing me from taking my three anxious budding apple pickers out to a local farm to participate in an annual event. To be honest, the throughout of facing the crowds, on my own, at one of the few pick-your-own places in our area was more than I could bare on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Then it was pumpkin choosing time. The weekend after Canadian Thanksgiving when the kids start dreaming of Halloween costumes and scary lit jack-o’-lanterns.
“Pumpkins! Mom, we have to get our pumpkins.”
“Soon kids. Soon.”
I started to panic. The clock was ticking and I was about to fail a major parenting moment in front of three increasingly vocal and aware children. No longer could I get away with, “They won’t remember the experience anyway.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I love doing this stuff with my kids. I do not love doing it by myself while dealing with crowds of people losing my voice as I should at Elizabeth to stop touching everything, manage Audrey’s emotional state and pull Jacob down from the fifteenth climb up onto the vintage tractors littering these farms all while trying to carry gear, water bottles, snacks all while trying to snap a few pictures as proof of my supermom powers.
Racking my brain I looked and re-fiddled with our family calendar. If we went this day right after morning activities, got back in time so Audrey could go to her party. Mr. L would be home so he could help. Dammit. Both girls have birthday parties and one is a sleepover. I need to have time to dig out the sleeping bags and help her get packed.
For two weeks these conversations rattled around in my brain as my kids started getting nervous we wouldn’t be going.
One night, after all kids were soundly asleep I beseeched in my sweetest voice to Mr. L., “Please…any possible way there is a date you don’t have to work on a Sunday and we can go together? Or you could come home early and we can go right after school? Rush hour up to the farm will be easier if there is two of us!”
Regretfully he shook his head. I know part of him wants to be at these things but his work is such that meetings, hosting duties and court dates set months ago are not easily changed because his wife wants him to go to the pumpkin patch. I also know how tired he is on the weekends and we try not to schedule too much.
Then it hits me. What’s stopping me from playing hooky with the kids? A weekday trip during school hours would ensure the apple picking farm is not busy, traffic would be better and the kids would get a kick out of being pulled out of school early.
So I plan it praying the weather cooperates. I plan a day where none of them have library, or a test to be missed. I write notes in agendas and pack larger lunches hoping it will buy me some time in the afternoon and remind each of them, “Remember, I’m picking you up right after lunch. Try to eat everything and we can go straight to pick apples and get pumpkins.”
The day arrives with cooler temperatures but sunny skies. I ensured they wore mittens, toque and boots thinking ahead to the damp rows of apple trees. I checked the farm’s website seeing that some apples were still available. Eureka!
Rushing through my morning’s scheduled activities I stopped to pat myself on the back for thinking ahead and packing extra warm clothes in my duffel bag and I happily arrived at the first school pick-up right on time. Ten minutes later both my daughters sauntered into the school foyer, excited and carrying their lunch boxes.
“Did you eat?” I asked.
Guiltily they looked at each other. “Some.” They answered.
“No problem,” I say intent on keeping a cheery attitude. “We have a half hour drive, you can eat in the van.”
The final pick-up goes well too. Jacob is already outside at recess having ate all his lunch. We drove off to Chudleigh’s Apple Farm, due north away from the breeze of the lake and I noticed the temperatures warmed up slightly. Upon arriving the day was even more idyllic that I had dared hope. Cool but not cold.The last of the buses from the school field trips were leaving and my heart sang, it truly would be only a scattering of people there. No breeze in sight and the warm sun helped the kid’s arguments that mittens were not necessary so we left them in the van. As we plunged into the farm, our first stop was to climb aboard the relatively empty awaiting tractor hay ride to head out to the apple orchard.
“Only Ambrosia’s left.” The farmer said.
Grasping our plastic draw-string bags we didn’t care. We were happy to pick anything and enjoyed the ride around the farm viewing the spectacular picture show of reds, golds and oranges bordering the property. As the tractor jerked to a stop, we ran up and down the aisles finally finding a bountiful crop of delicious red apples. We filled each of our bags to the fullest when I realized. I had to carry four bags of apples. The kids being good sports offered to carry their own and after a bit of fiddling on the best position, we managed to make our way out of the orchard back to the farm to find a large, heavy wagon to carry our load.
From there it was easy. We viewed the petting zoo. Picked our pumpkins. Ran a hay stack maze and then to the kid’s thrill, had the slide areas all to ourselves. The bakery was still open so wanting to celebrate our successes, we ate cookies with chocolate milk with pride.
When you have three or more kids, sometimes the easiest solution is to break the schedule once in a while. Play hooky. Be smart. We had a much more relaxed time going mid-week than we would have fighting the line-ups and crowds on the weekend. Especially if you in the position that there is one caregiver for three children, the rule of the day, make it as stress-free as possible. The kids will have much better memories of a day spent outside with a mom not screeching at them to stay where she can see them and that is what is important.