Tiptoeing through the tulips

Taken by my 4 1/2-year-old budding photographer

We finally found our weekend groove. We’ve never been able to strike the right balance between doing something and getting something done, until now. We found that a short, fun activity each day makes the weekend enjoyable, but still productive, as we have plenty of time left for weekend projects.

So last week we wanted to go to the Tulip Festival in Skagit County. The tulips grown in Skagit County account for 75 percent of the tulips sold in the U.S., according to Sunset magazine. Basically, you pack the kids in the car, drive up there and traipse through the vast tulip fields, taking pictures and gazing at acres and acres of tulips and daffodils. The farm that we visited has beautiful gardens as well, in bloom for photos, and they sell flowers and food.

Visiting the tulips doesn’t sound like as much fun as it is. Although all you do is walk through the fields and take pictures of flowers, yourselves with flowers, and other people with flowers, it’s really beautiful; the sheer numbers of tulips blow your mind; and oddly enough, the kids really, really like it.

So when we decided to go to the tulip fields this year, I was understandably excited. The last time we went, we rendezvoused with another family, and, at their insistence, we left at the ass-crack of dawn, got up there in the morning, saw the tulips among a few other people, went to town, had lunch, and headed out, noting bumper-to-bumper traffic headed in, thinking smugly, Boy, I’m glad we’re not messed up in that! We were home by 2:30.

This year was a little different. This year I intended the Tulip Festival to be a half-day, (well, maybe three-quarters of a day) affair. That was shot to hell when we didn’t leave the house until 10:30 – it was my husband’s day to sleep late – and by the time we waited on line to get gas at Costco, we didn’t get on the road until 11 a.m. We hit the first big traffic backup at the first river crossing, where cars backed up from the exit a mile down the highway. We were shooting for a different route, so we passed that exit and well before we got to our exit, cars were lined up on the shoulder, and backed up on an on-ramp for the previous exit. There was no way to get into this line of cars, so we passed by, overshot our exit and doubled back.

Our detour proved a good way to get to town, and when we got there, we found a street festival. My husband suggested we check out the festival and get lunch. All I wanted to do was see the tulips, but we had to eat, so I acquiesced. Just across the parking lot, we saw an ice-cream stand. I don’t know who said “Look, ice cream!” It may have been me. But immediately, my daughter said, “I want ice cream! I want ice cream!” and we explained that she could have ice cream, after lunch. “I want ice cream now!” she said, channeling Veruca Salt.

There was a tent with all kinds of free toys next to the ice cream stand, so we got the kids interested in them, and, I thought, over the ice cream. Once we finished with the toys, we headed into the festival in search of lunch. We saw an Italian restaurant, which I vetoed, because I’m from New York and I do not eat Italian food in Podunk towns anywhere but Italy. Then we saw a burger place, which my daughter vetoed, then sausages on the street, which my daughter vetoed, then two more places she vetoed, so I stood her on a bench and talked to her face to face. She was cranky and I told her we had to find a place to eat. That’s when she said she wanted ice cream. I said the deal was she’d get ice cream after we ate. I put her back down. What finally saved us was a sno-cone machine in front of a Mexican restaurant. She wanted a sno-cone and we said, “If you come in here and eat a taco, you can have a sno-cone when you come out.” And she did.

After lunch we headed back to the car, my daughter munching her sno-cone, and headed for the tulip fields. When we turned onto the small country road leading to the fields, we found a mile-long line of cars at a dead stop. There was another way around, but we didn’t know if it went all the way through according to the map, so we didn’t take it. Instead we wound up waiting in line to turn onto the farm’s road for an hour, and during the last half hour, we were serenaded by my son crying in the backseat. His milk was gone and we hadn’t been able to get any at the restaurant, and we forgot on our way back to the car. We gave him a pacifier. He threw it. We gave him food. He threw it. Then my husband started bitching – about our son. He’d already been bitching about the traffic.

“He’s getting a sunburn! He’s in pain! He sounds like he’s in pain!”

I looked at him. “He’s in the shade.”

“No he’s not. I can see the sun coming through!”

“It’s not hitting him. It’s above his head,” I said.

“Do we have any sunscreen?”

“No, but if he’s sunburned we have some Oragel. It’ll numb his skin.”

“F-in’ traffic. Come ON!!!”

It turned out the traffic cop was favoring the other streets at the intersection. They all got to go twice before we went once. I don’t have to say that my husband was pretty pissed about that. When we got to the parking lot, he skidded the minivan into a space, jumped out of the car and got our son out.

“Look,” he said, pointing at my son’s reddened arm. “He’s sunburned!” He handed him to me as he went to set up the baby backpack.

I pressed my fingers into my son’s skin. “He’s not sunburned,” I said calmly. “He’s just red from crying.”

“He’s hot from sitting in that seat!” he said.

“Probably.” I rinsed his cup out and gave him some water. He drank it. “And he was thirsty.”

We put my son into the baby backpack, for the first time. He kicked and cried. Guess that was a waste of money. I wanted to see if he’d walk, so we brought the leash. No dice. We carried him and brought the stroller.

When we got to the gardens, my husband gave my daughter his camera. She loves taking pictures, and she’s getting really good at it. We emphasized that this was her day with the camera and she was so happy. Our son, however, was not. He was ok for a little while, but it wasn’t long before he wanted to play with the camera. We told him that it was his sister’s day with the camera and he just couldn’t have it. On came the tears, and the whining, and the “eh, eh, eh, eh,” whenever she got close. It got to be too much. We asked our daughter to give up the camera, just for a little while. She refused. We said, “Do you want to listen to him whine all day?” She gave it up.

Then she pouted. She walked away, arms crossed, head down. My husband followed her, offering his camera phone. No dice. We were stuck in this beautiful garden with a pouting preschooler and a now content toddler. We just couldn’t win. We dragged our daughter to the tulip fields and soon the flowers got the best of her and she asked for Daddy’s camera. She took some really good pictures with it too. Somewhere on the fields I remembered that my son’s been in love with car keys lately, so I traded him my keys for the camera, and returned it to my daughter, so for about a half hour, everyone was happy.

On the way back, we sat in traffic again, this time for about a half hour, headed back to town. And again on the highway. We kept hitting slowdowns for no apparent reason that would bring traffic to a standstill. It was no fun being around my husband for that. We finally got home at dinnertime, and, too tired to cook, we ordered Chinese food.

I learned a lot from this experience. One, leaving at the crack of dawn is the way to go to the Tulip Festival. Two, if I want a half-day excursion, I must tell my husband so that we both have the same goal. Three, if I want to have any sort of good time, I have to avoid stuff with the potential to piss my husband off. And four, I need to buy each kid a camera.

2 comments on “Tiptoeing through the tulips

  1. I thought that pic looked familiar. We went to the Tulip Festival yesterday as well. I had never been even though I was born in Mt. Vernon. We didn’t get there till about 3:30 and the traffic wasn’t bad to get there. Getting home we stopped at Cabellas for their grand opening and took an alternate way home.

    We didn’t bring boots for the girls though, and we spent the entire time reprimanding them for splashing in the mud, putting their hands in the mud, attempting to pick the flowers, etc. Made the experience less enjoyable. :S

  2. I’m glad it was at least a little fun, Laura! Our first time, the girls were in their hellion phase, but to our extreme shock, neither tried to pick a flower, but it was muddy. This time we couldn’t walk the perimeter. We had to double back because we couldn’t get the stroller through the far path because of the mud. We were lucky, it had been pretty dry the week before we went. Thanks for your comment!

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