halloween

The Grimmest Pumpkin Patch in Los Angeles

After misunderstanding a friend’s recommendation for a preschooler-friendly local pumpkin patch, we took Charlie to the grimmest, most Carnie fall experience I’ve yet encountered.

In pursuit of of autumn magic, we drove over to the Pasadena Pumpkin Patch. When my friend Heidi said she always took her kids to their local pumpkin patch and had a great time, I just Googled which pumpkin patches were close to her and made plans. Like an idiot.

As we drove into the CVS parking lot, I questioned Heidi’s taste for the first time in our 11-year friendship. When we walked through the chain-link fence, I knew she must be all the way out of her entire mind. But Charlie was enchanted. He immediately found the pumpkin of his dreams.

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I foolishly only took pictures where it looked like we were at a perfectly acceptable pumpkin patch. 

He liked that it fit in one hand, and that it had the best stem. He also found some dried corn, which he started using as a broom immediately. Neither of these were near as exciting as the prospect of the ultra-grim petting zoo. Wanna touch a real, live, mangey chicken? This is the place for you! What about a piglet with intestinal discomfort? We have two! Do you like goats? This goat does not like you, and is currently escaping through the chain-link fence to explore the freedom of the rest of the CVS parking lot. Don’t worry, Methy Joe has acquired a rake with which to shoe the goat back into place. Please, Mom, please can we pay the $7 to get right in there, in the pin with them, and touch those animals? Kiss them with our faces? Rub the hay in our eyes? I’m especially interested in the parts of the animals that ought to have fur and/or feathers, and yet have neither.

Oh, sorry honey, dad is highly allergic to some manner of evil within this petting zoo, and we’ve got to GTFO before his sinuses explode. I, too, am experiencing itching in places on my face I didn’t know I had.

When can I go on the inflatable slide, Mom? I love the part about how we have to take our shoes off and walk around in what I can only assume are used hypodermic needles and a bit of hay.

Sadly, we had to go before we could experience the full splendor. Andy was legit allergic, so we couldn’t linger, as much as we obviously wanted to. Charlie started throwing a fit upon the news that it was time to pay for our pumpkins and go. Sobbing, as is his custom, “I’m never going to be happy again!” He cried all the way home.

As it turned out, this was not the recommended pumpkin patch in question. The one my friend endorsed was her non-gimmicky, strictly pumpkin-based neighborhood patch. In fairness to me, this questionable autumn experience had a lot of close-up pictures on its website, so all red flags had been carefully cropped out of my internet research. But because I wanted to create a magical memory and didn’t feel like driving all the way the fuck to Moorpark, we now have the magical memories of the saddest petting zoo in Los Angeles, and a son who promises to be unhappy forever.

But a memory’s a memory. I’m counting this one as a win.

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Pumpkin Soup and the War on Squirrels

Preparing for an evening of spite-fueled domesticity.

Preparing for an evening of spite-fueled domesticity.

My father-in-law lives with us and takes care of Charlie while Andy and I are at work. For the record, this is a fabulous arrangement. He is, however, at a crucial point in his ongoing War on Squirrels. Few things make him happier than being able to deny happiness to the squirrels who live in our yard. Those decorative porch pumpkins? It’s November 2nd. They have to go. Today. Because Halloween is over and the squirrels have taken an interest. We cannot leave them out until the day after Thanksgiving as I’d planned, because the squirrels are already sniffing them, and probably licking them too. And if the squirrels enjoy a festive holiday gourd, the terrorists win.

Our squirrels are, in fact, a tremendous pain in the ass. We have this lovely apple tree that we’ve never been able to eat one apple off of, because the squirrels get to them first. Though I really enjoy the idea of having a home-grown apple, I was always too taken with the adorableness of my fluffy little squirrel friends sitting on our porch and gnawing away at an apple bigger than their head, like they think they’re people. Even when a squirrel made a nest right outside my bedroom window and I could hear the scratching inches from my head in the middle of the night as she nibbled through our screen, my primary thought was, “Oh! How nice! She’s getting the nursery ready for her baby, just like me! We’re like twins! And she goes so well with the ‘Critters of North America’ decor I’m working on in here!” But then I did let the cats into my room to stare her down, because in practice, I don’t need a next of baby squirrels sleeping next to my head, no matter how goddamned adorable they are.

When Ed moved in, the squirrels went from adorable nuisance to The Enemy at Home. They’re into the bird seed, they’re digging up the flower bed, AND they’re still eating the apples. Probably they would kill us in our sleep if we let them. So the last 14 months, while primarily being dedicated to the care and nurturing of my child, have secondarily been committed to contraptions, concoctions, and incantations directed at the Enemy Squirrels: pepper spray on the apple trees, peppermint oil around the bird feeder, pepper seeds in the bird feed, cages around the plants, wire around the everything, plastic owls and eagles placed menacingly around the porch, an ever-expanding and increasingly greased up bird-feed-holding pole (that the squirrels continue to climb by simply modifying their previous behavior), and, most importantly, dropping everything at a moments notice to run our back and turn the hose on a squirrel when caught in an offending action. Since the squirrels have outmaneuvered us at every turn, getting stronger, jumping higher, and getting less picky about what they want their pilfered crops to taste like. It would seem that the conclusion is the resignation that we just can’t have nice things, and neither can the squirrels. Ed recently uprooted the vegetable garden and removed the bird feeder; I give it a week before he chops down the apple tree while shouting, “If I can’t have you, nobody can!”

Lest the enemy get a pleasant meal, we’ll be having decorative autumn gourd for dinner tonight. I’m searching the internet for a “wow your guests when you bake this soup in a pumpkin and be festive!” recipe, aiming for one that I have most of the ingredients for. Since I’m an ideal homemaker, this will work out perfectly. There’s no need to wish me luck.

I totally have this autumnal domesticity thing down. Look at these amazing Tootsie Pop Ghosts I crafted for dozens of apathetic trick-or-treaters! Cooking show-worthy gourd soup should be no biggie.

I totally have this autumnal domesticity thing down. Look at these amazing Tootsie Pop Ghosts I crafted for dozens of apathetic trick-or-treaters! Cooking show-worthy gourd soup should be no biggie.

Hipster Mother’s Halloween Spooktacular

Actual agent of the actual Devil.

Actual agent of the actual Devil.

Now that I’m in my mid-thirties, it’s time for the youthful rebellion I couldn’t pull off in the days of my youth. Growing up Evangelical (and occasionally Pentecostal), Halloween was the actual work of the actual devil. Therefore, as children we were only allowed to participate in church-sanctioned activities, like dressing in non-scary costumes and attending the Harvest Festival in the church parking lot, or heading to the Fellowship Hall to watch a documentary on Satanic ritual abuse. In our church community, my parents were among the more liberal. I recall another parent asking my mom, “You allow your children to watch The Smurfs? Even though Gargamel practices witchcraft?” But there were plenty of things were weren’t allowed to do, including, but not limited to:

  • Spooky hay barn at the spooky Pumpkin Festival

    Spooky hay barn at the spooky Pumpkin Festival

    Trick-or-Treating

  • Eating Count Chocula, or any of the other Monster cereals
  • Watching other witchcraft-based features, such as:
    • Hocus Pocus
      • Simpsons “Treehouse of Horror” episodes
    • Disney’s The Black Cauldron (which tipped my mom off with its suspicious PG rating)
    • Anything with “Witch” in the title
    • Small Wonder (which I assumed was because of its alignment with the dark forces, but turned out to be because my mom rightly found it too annoying to have on in the house.)
  • Reading any of the Bernstein Bears books where anything is described as “spooky.”
  • Carving jack-o-lanterns with spooky faces. It was okay to carve pumpkins with faces, as long as they looked good-natured. Turkeys were the preferred design. Especially if the the turkeys had accepted Jesus as their personal Lord and savior.
  • And, for a couple years, saying “Happy Halloween.” Instead, our youth leadership favored “Happy Hallowed King,” which took the focus off of Satan and put it back on Jesus, where it belonged.
Spooky trip to Home Depot

Spooky trip to Home Depot

Spooky mantel decorations

Spooky mantel decorations

Now that I’m older with a child of my own, I’ve decided that I’m committed to a spooky fall season. At least until like November 3, at which point I’ll be committed to a fall season of thankfulness and togetherness. My family and church really had a handle on the latter; lots of time was spent applying hot glue to fallen leaves and raffia for festive seasonal decor. But today, I’m doing something completely radical: I’ve eaten my morning bowl of Count Chocula, and I’m going to make Tootsie-Pop ghosts. They’ll be handed out to our trick-or-treaters, and might even line the lawn on Halloween. Last night I bought a package of something billing itself as “Spooky Fabric,” and I’ve placed it over the railing on the porch. I’m ready for this.

Spooky trip to the Pumpkin Festival

Spooky trip to the Pumpkin Festival

I also bought Charlie a book called Duck and Goose Find a Pumpkin in preparation for taking him to the Butler’s Orchard Pumpkin Festival last weekend. The book is not as spooky as I’d like, but it’s seasonally appropriate. He’s got a hand-me-down Cheerios Halloween activity book that is ridiculous, but that he loves. (It’s a heavy-handed marketing product. “Hey, kids! These ghosts need more Cheerios so their souls can be at peace! Can you help them? By buying Cheerios?”) We’re going to a Halloween party AND handing out candy. Yesterday we watched something on Netflix about Curious George’s scary something something pumpkin something. I’m gonna make the house look as haunted as I can. Because I’m an adult. So I’m gonna dress up my Tootsie Pops like their ghosts.

Spooky black cat, freaking out because I'm spending time on the porch and not hanging out with him.

Spooky black cat, freaking out because I’m spending time on the porch and not hanging out with him.