Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Trip to the Apple Orchard

It's 1:00am, I'm awake and blogging. Not ideal, but I'm capitalizing on the quiet peacefulness while I've got it. I no longer have a babysitter for a few hours each week, and it's been difficult to find the time to do anything for myself -- blog, cut my fingernails, etc. Isn't that ridiculous? I enjoy my quality time with Tory and Aden as we dive into our new school-year routine, but mentally I seem to be searching for a few minutes alone ... even if I find them in the middle of the night.

Andi's traveling for work quite a bit this fall, and over several weekends which is unusual. I'm trying to take advantage of these rare weekends we're not at the cabin by making plans with friends we don't normally see on Saturdays and Sundays.

Tory, Aden and I met my friend Mirjam and her son Elia at the apple orchard last weekend. Mirjam is a relatively new friend of mine -- we struck up a conversation at the playground this summer and discovered we live about 2 minutes away from one another. Aden is three months older than Elia so it's nice to have a little friend for him and a fellow boy-mom for me.

Every year, Andi and I take the kids to a small apple orchard near the cabin, so last Sunday was my first time tackling a Twin Cities apple orchard on the weekend. I was really nervous to take both kids there by myself and battle the crowds of people. Sunday was the perfect fall day with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70's so I knew the orchard would be especially busy. But, Tory's been begging to go apple picking so what's a mama to do? Take her, of course!

We arrived at the orchard as soon as the gates opened and already there was a line of cars and people. Parking and admission were fairly organized though, so logistics were surprisingly easy. There were lots of activities for the kids to do once we entered -- a wooden train to climb on, a corn crib slide, a petting zoo, a mountain made of hay bails and an apple express train pulled by a farmer on an ATV. Mirjam and I let the kids run between each station and play for a solid hour or so.

Tory and Aden were thrilled with the apple express train which was free as part of admission. I was certain Aden would freak out when he noticed the train pulling away from me, but he didn't -- he loved it!

The petting zoo was met with little enthusiasm by my kids. Perhaps I've overexposed them to animals through other activities -- at the cabin? the zoo? -- because Tory and Aden were all, like, "Eh, a pair a llamas. So what? Let's climb the giant hay mountain!"

The heart wants what the heart wants.

With time (and nearing afternoon naps) in mind, Mirjam and I decided to take the kids on a hay ride around the apple orchard. For the record, it's "hay rack rides" to me, and I have the hardest time conforming to Minnesota's "hay ride" terminology. Anyway, we waited in line for our turn on the hay ride for 15 minutes or so and at this point, I felt a little jaded by the quaint feeling and no lines at the small orchard we typically visit. Though I will say, this orchard had four tractors with hay rides running (that I saw) so they were doing their best to accommodate the large crowd of people.

My feelings of distaste quickly faded once we piled on the trailer and rode through the beautiful trails of mature trees. Soon, we pulled up to rows and rows of apple trees. Tory couldn't wait to start picking and marched right up to the farm stand saying, "We'll take two bags, please." Ahem, two pecks for $20 each, that is. That's a lot of apples for this solo-parenting mama to carry home! I politely revised Tory's order down to one bag of SweeTango apples, paid the worker and we set off for picking.

This part of the orchard was fabulous! There were hardly any people in the area, so we practically had the rows of apples to ourselves. The kids ran wild picking apples to fill up our bag. Even Aden was able to reach some of the low hanging fruit and steal a few for himself.

We caught the hay ride back to the main area and bellied up to a picnic table for lunch. Mirjam and I packed lunches for the kids which seemed much easier than waiting in line for hot dogs and hamburgers at the grill station. The kids played on a nearby display tractor before we called it a day.

It really was one of those picture-perfect fall days, far exceeding my expectations. Both kids were fast asleep in their car seats before we pulled out of the parking lot, so it's safe to say they had a blast.    

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