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quality family time, dammit

Every year since 2001, when the baby was still officially The Fetus, we’ve made a trek to Trax Farms right before Halloween. We fully recognize that driving out to the country for the day to do country-ish things like hay rides and corn mazes and pumpkin picking and cider guzzling is some total City Mouse behavior, but whatever. It’s tradition and I’m pretty sure it’s written in one of my algebra textbooks that after two years, a tradition is never to be questioned.

And every year, the atmosphere at Trax has become increasingly circus-like. I think they’re pushing their fall festival theme a little bit harder and so they keep adding attractions that depart further away from the farm theme. This year there was a Moonbounce and a large inflated Titanic…thing. Because the Titanic crashed in rural Pennsylvania dontchaknow.

And, of course, the number of people making their annual trek to the country from the city and the suburbs has steadily increased. All of these things combined have made our annual trip less and less pleasant.

(I also stopped buying the Trax Farms brand products in the store when I had the revolutionary idea to look at the labels and realized that none of these products were made at Trax Farms, but rather somewhere else for Trax Farms. I guess I had this adorably naive and urban idea of a bunch of ladies draped in, I don’t know, doilies and aprons, toiling somewhere in the back of the farm making apple butter and applesauce from an old family recipe. Yeah, not so much. I’m not sure exactly where their stuff is made, but I don’t think there are any grammies involved and I’m fairly certain that old family recipes don’t include high fructose corn syrup. So, there’s yet another fantasy quashed. Also, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny don’t exist, God hates you, and your elementary school teacher did not, in fact, think that you could be anything you wanted to be. She always knew that you were an idiot.)

A few weeks ago, I suggested that we go to Trax the first week of October. I had several reasons, mostly having to do with our weekends being packed all of October. The husband staunchly refused, saying that that was too early.

Somewhere around mid-October, faced with a frigid and rainy weekend, the husband mused that we should have gone to Trax at the beginning of October. “OH, REALLY?!?!?” I squawked, and he quickly backpedaled and said that my reasons were not freak-weather-related and so therefore I was still wrong to suggest the early outing. He has since relented a tiny bit, and last night declared, that I was “right, but not right-right.”

We decided to sacrifice the first half of the Steelers game and head out to the farm right after the baby’s soccer game. Of course, everyone else had this idea, too. (Note: if you want a peaceful grocery shopping experience, go during a Steeler game. The aisles will be gloriously empty…but you might have a tough time finding hot wings or sandwich rings. Just FYI.) We parked far away from the entrance and had to go through the back entrance of the store, past a Christmas display.

Now, I can’t complain too much, because the crowd did disperse a little, and the pumpkins were still plentiful. However, three things get a huge boo from me:

– Now that I am officially a Soccer Mom, I got the urge to decorate my front porch with some of those hardy mums in gorgeous fall shades. There were about six or seven hardy mums left and they looked as though they had gone on a bender, culminating in a fistfight with the cornstalks.

– The animals in the petting zoo were so overfed from everyone marching in and out of there all day with their cups of grain and baby bottles, that they barely acknowledged our cries of, “Here, goat. Here, goat. Have some dried corn and stuff. Come on.” However, the alpaca obliged us and didn’t seem to mind that I called him, “Mr. Sweater.” Also, some hipsters gave me the stinkeye when I mocked the goats for not having thumbs. Whatever, man. I’m circling the bottom of the food chain. I need to feel superior to someone.

– The corn “maze.” I don’t know if there were budgetary constraints this year or not. But the maze was not tightly packed rows of undulating cornstalks, but rather cornstalks spread out and tied with twine in such a way that I could look through the maze and see most possible routes. And the entrance was also the exit, meaning that if we were competing, I could just go in, hide for a few seconds and then emerge and claim that I had completed the maze in record time. Really, really anticlimactic and not nearly “Shining” enough.

But we acquired pumpkins and a bushel of apples. After watching the glorious Steeler game, the husband made some beef vegetable soup with the help of one of Trax’s soup bags. It’s his annual foray into the kitchen and is like one giant, stereotype-laden sitcom episode, as he yells out to me asking where the knives are and drops things and burns fingers and overflows the sink with dishes and uses the most profane language. The soup was good, though.

Being Harriet to his Ozzie, I made an apple pie. My pies are always delicious, but aesthetically I’m terrible. I have some difficulty with rolling out pie dough. Last night, the dough for the bottom crust was thick in the middle and nearly translucent on the edges, while the dough for the top crust was the opposite.

I also took the requisite picture of my kid in the pumpkin patch, but I haven’t gotten it off of the camera yet. That reminds me, that we managed to avoid that Kodak onslaught. Last year, I was standing next to a woman who plopped her six-month-old on a pumpkin and he was all overstimulated by the crowd that he wouldn’t look at the camera. Instead of just grabbing an equally precious profile shot, the mom was insistent on getting a toothy grin, and kept saying, “Anthony! Anthony! Anthony! Look at mama! Look at mama! Look! Look! Beep beep Beep! Anthony! Anthony! Beep! Boop! Anthony!” I was torn between wanting to fist bump Anthony for not bending to his mother’s inane will and grabbing his head and turning it toward her EasyShare just to make the noise stop.

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