Oklahoma City family fun has a way of keeping us in the here and now.
I've spent parenthood so far listening to other people's advice and watching it slowly come into focus.
"The days are long but the years are short" is a phrase stitched on pillows and carefully lettered on acid-free paper hung under glass. It becomes more relevant as I watch my children grow, the predictability of the seasons underscored by holidays with their familiar themes and decorations. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas: they define what we buy when and the patterns that become traditions to slowly shape all that we do.
There isn't time to sit back and watch the leaves change colors this autumn, maybe any autumn with small kids. What comes next, after the holidays, only makes time feel like it's passing all the faster. My youngest sons both have January birthdays. They'll be 5 and 2 and I get it now; the days are always long but the years are far too short and here we are already.
This fall has been unseasonably warm. I've bought liners for the slow cooker, stocked the pantry with cartons of broth and bags of dry beans. No one wants soup or pot roast or apple crisp. I finally made and mostly threw away a butternut squash. It's too hot for the usual fall favorites just now.
The weather is beautiful, perfect for my 4-almost-5 year old, Isaac, to ask for the one thing he really wanted to do: to visit a pumpkin patch.
I wasn't really sure how he knew about pumpkin patches. We've only been one other time, last year, and we had a lot of fun but it's not always easy to know what kids enjoy or the exact impression they walk away with until much later.
We usually drive out to POPS each July but this summer was over in the blink of an eye.
It wasn't too late to try out the Arcadia Corn Maze so we planned a day of activities that began on the opposite end of town. Cross Creek Stables at NW 192nd was hosting its annual Trot-or-Treat event; Isaac had never even touched a horse so seeing all that goes into caring for them with the possibility of a quick ride seemed like a perfect start to the day.
I chose Isaac's outfit for the day: jeans and a button-down shirt over a tee so he could take it off when he got hot. Glow-in-the-dark Ninja Turtle tennis shoes were the best we could do for shoes. I realized he doesn't own any cowboy boots, so different from the rural childhood I knew. The experience would be new to my husband too; he's from a city of four million people with no open spaces in sight.
The smell of the horses was what surprised them most. Isaac took his ride and we watched as the Cross Creek staff obligingly let him pat Daisy the Horse, ask his questions and smile in the way small children do when they're happy. It was warm but they were patient and I was grateful.
We drove to the Arcadia Corn Maze and surveyed all that was going on just across from POPS: pumpkins for sale, a tall rainbow-colored inflatable slipper slide, paintball, a fishing tank, facepainting, a petting zoo, the Tiger Safari animal show, a sandpit and the corn maze provided an array of activities. No one else in our family had seen dry corn before or that much wide open space really.
I took photos as my husband and sons held a snake and lizards. We saw a lynx and a lemur and everyone was happy to climb hay bales and forget the pressures of work and school and time passing.
For a little while on a Saturday, we just enjoyed all that there was to see and do.
We walked over to POPS and ate dinner on the patio, let the children drink soda for once. Everyone brushed off dry straw and tried not to smudge their face paint. The smell of sweet hay and horses followed us home.
Our family goes a lot of places and we try to make together but the afternoon felt rare, a sunny October afternoon doing things we do not normally do.
This Thanksgiving, I know we'll gather around our new old dining room table, the one we bought used to accommodate our growing family. Like so many families, we'll hold little hands and say what we'll thankful for then silently cross our fingers that we can do the same next year in good health and good company. I'll think back to last Saturday and wish for that time again too.
It's not always easy to parent small children, with their implied need for care that feels constant in the beginning, but some days are better than others. We live for those days and I think that's what we'll remember when these years and all their Crayon marks on the walls fade.
If you're looking for a fun family activity this Halloween weekend, the Arcadia Corn Maze is still open.
No matter what you do, have a great weekend, together.