I don’t know when pumpkin picking commanded such mass hysteria, but it has reached epidemic proportions in the latter part of October. This past weekend, we celebrated a friend’s birthday at G&M Farms in the San Francisco East Bay, and it was a glorious mob scene of parents and children. I swear the humans outnumbered the pumpkins slumbering on a vacant field. Tired zombied parents pulling their unencumbered kids and giant pumpkins collectively in dusty, red radio flyer wagons.
There was no escaping the bags of sweet-smelling kettle corn, painted scarecrows, Indian corn, pony rides, and bales of hay designed into an elaborate maize labyrinth. I was half-expecting David Bowie’s Jared the Goblin King to bust out like the Kool-Aid man from the white-washed barn between us and the corn maize. But no — it was just the dads slinging kids on their shoulders while waiting in line for the next pony ride.
Pumpkin season is the formal acknowledgement of fall, the precursor to the holiday madness of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and every fourth quarter celebratory occasion. It is a rite of parental passage that is both a timeless classic and Instagrammable sensation. If you have a young child, pumpkin picking is nearly inescapable, unless you’re traveling out of the country during the month of October.
Pulling up my Instagram feed, I am duly inundated with photos of adorable babies and tots smiling with orange pumpkins in the background. Glamorous women guilelessly reposing against a backdrop of white-washed pumpkins, gourds, and chip proof manicures.
Pumpkins are as Americano as pumpkin pie, as this luscious squash is thought to have originated in North America with references dating centuries past. I am a big proponent of the fall tradition welcoming pumpkin spice with a vengeance – pumpkin spice coffee, pancakes, cereal, cakes, and popcorn. As with all holiday traditions, I am happy to go all out as I relive the magic of childhood.
I love creating memorable experiences for my kids and finding special occasions to bring us closer together. Whether that’s a weekend adventure, a trip to a museum, or creative projects at home. With two young kids, I almost always feel exhausted at the end of any project or endeavor. My son is also at an age where he is over-the-top inquisitive. Parents, you know what I’m talking about.
My son, on the subject of Margherita pizza
Why is the pizza called Margherita? What are these green things? Do I have to eat them? What’s basil? Does basil grow in the ground or on trees? Did God make them? Does God eat basil? Can we get a pizza without basil? Actually, I just want pizza with no sauce, no cheese, no basil, and no tomatoes.
Me: No, because it’s no longer a pizza.
Fast forward: The basil and the tomato slices (on his side of the pizza) have been surgically removed.
I love that my son is curious. He has an existentialist mindset, questioning absolutely everything and defining his own sense of the world. Something we should always encourage as parents…to question things.
My daughter, when it comes to tea time
My youngest is a toddler with a bold personality. She can be a hurricane force of nature, and I can see the machinations behind her cherubic mien. In many ways, she and I are most alike. My mom says she is a mirror copy of what I was like at that age. Personality to boot. Embracing her English side, my daughter loves playing make-believe with tea sets and sipping from tiny cups.
My son was an easy toddler in comparison. He has a breezy, sunny personality and in my eyes, a total charmer. My daughter is far more intense in comparison, a roller coaster of fun and ebullience.
Afternoon tea with fine china
I had made an appointment to take my parents and the kids out for afternoon tea. It would be a first-time treat for my daughter and son. I thought “how cute” if I could dress up my girl in a frilly outfit and adorn her hair with a fascinator hat from her Auntie D. She was so good with her toy tea set. Surely this was an excellent idea.
Reality: Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The English Rose Team Room in San Francisco’s East Bay is a gorgeous place with fine bone china and tables covered in pretty tablecloth. Every inch of the place is covered in floral patterns. Very English I thought. But as soon as I walked in, I had a feeling of dread. Everything was in close quarters and the fine china looked incredibly delicate as I saw my toddler stomping her little feet.
Beads of sweat formed on my brow and on my upper lip. As we sat in chairs with little seat cushions, the server appeared and patiently walked us through the tea service.
Delicate teapots in the shape of chimneyed houses, cups with delicate handles, clattering saucers, gilded plates, and a 3-tier tray of finger foods appeared. Every inch of the table was covered with dangerously breakable items. Did I want hibiscus tea or mint tea? Cucumber sandwich or egg sandwich? Scone with clotted cream and jam, or carrot cake? Sugar cookie or apple pie? Everything was sumptuous, but I was too busy hovering around my little girl to have much of an appetite. Making sure she didn’t touch this or that, or worse actually drink anything from a tea cup.
I looked over at my son. He was enjoying himself and was quite happy with his special meal and apple juice in a tea cup. Bonus, he found a tiny dish of M&Ms next to his flower shaped PB&J sandwich. Talk about finger food!
My son was a perfect little gentleman and made his momma proud. My daughter, on the other hand, was building herself into a quite a state. Of course she wanted to interact with the fine ladies sitting at adjacent tables. An elderly pair were having a polite conversation to our right, while the table to our left had the most well-behaved pair of young sisters, bows and all. This was not going to be my day.
My daughter bellowed that she wanted to get down from her chair. Nana and I promptly escorted my mini-me outside where they had pretty tables and tea sets displayed in a garden party setting. Phew, disaster averted. We had escaped outside.
Pretty soon a stuffed bunny with long floppy ears caught my daughter’s eye. She managed to decapitate it with one quick swoop of her energetic arms. The bunny’s head was fortunately affixed to a wooden stick, so I was able to easily re-attach the head to its floating body. Another potential crisis averted.
So much for finding respite outdoors, the garden party setting was rife with adorable breakables. With defeated looks, we marched right back inside.
We finally got my little one to take a few bites of her meal. She managed to dip her pirouette straight into the frosting of a pink cupcake, and made a little mess of things. Bits of her beautiful floral PB&J sandwich ended up on her lap, and she slingshot launched the fascinator hat, nearly hitting me in the face. Her idea of sitting in a chair was to stand, so she was at eye-level with all of us. Did she think she was the Queen of England?
Our afternoon tea outing turned to be an abbreviated visit, and we left with a generous doggie bag filled with all the sumptuous food we had not been able to enjoy.
We’ll come back in a couple years
In summary, I loved the ‘idea’ of experiencing afternoon tea with the kids. My son happily nibbled on all the finger foods and loved the whimsy of the tea settings. It was too much to expect my toddler daughter to sit still for even a few minutes. Would I go back? Absolutely! But I’ll wait a while until my daughter is a bit older. At the moment, we’re better off taking her to the local pumpkin patch.