As every parent knows, taking kids anywhere is an adventure (read: chore).
So when I was offered the assignment of going out to the wineries with my husband and two young boys, my initial excitement was overcome by terror and anxiety.
What in the world was I going to do with this group?
My husband, Bill, is not a wine drinker. Typically, the only reason he goes to the wineries is as my designated driver.
Our children are amazing, wonderful and adorable. But they’re also insane.
Brian, who’s 5 years old, is primarily interested in bugs, trucks and anything involving a combination of water, sand and dirt. He also loves video games. And he’s very picky, to the point where I have had to rinse off vegetables that touched cheese sauce. (What kid doesn’t love cheese sauce on vegetables?)
Three-year-old Evan, his little brother (or little bother as Brian calls him, following the words of Olivia, the storybook pig), loves two things more than anything else: to hear himself talk and to hang out with Monkey Wooble, his stuffed animal and best friend.
While planning the trip, Bill asked if our budget would cover his therapy after spending a day out with the kids. Brian said he wanted to see trains. Evan’s only condition was that he could bring Monkey Wooble. All day. Everywhere.
From the start, I knew to expect just one thing: This was going to be a long day.
I woke up at 5:30 a.m. the day of the trip, excited to begin my research. Where were we going to go?
I checked a couple of websites and woke up my husband, telling him my plans. He mumbled something, rolled over and went back to sleep. After more than six years of marriage, he’s used to this kind of event by now.
By 6:30 a.m. the kids were up and excited to start the day.
The wineries don’t open until around 11 a.m., so after bathing the kids, giving them breakfast, dressing and packing them up, it was already almost 9 a.m. After a few trips back into the house, one trip to the bathroom and a hunt for Monkey Wooble, the kids were on their way.
Bill and I were ready for naps.
We started breakfast at Riverhead Diner and Grill on Main Street. Bill grew up in Aquebogue and has been going to the Grill for years.
I’m a Mattituck girl, so I’m more of an egg-sandwich-from-the-old-Village-Market kind of girl. We make it work.
Our kids are very similar to us, in terms of breakfast taste.
Brian likes pancakes and french toast, but he will eat a side of bacon. That’s a typical Bill breakfast. If he eats at all, Evan is a sausage-and-egg kid, just like his mom. It’s perfect. A trip to the Grill will please all of us.
Evan ate everything on his plate, which is nothing short of miraculous. Brian was distracted by the place mats and crayons and dinosaurs and whatever else was happening. I think he ate about half a short stack.
Bill and I had omelets, which Bill will only eat outside of home, mostly because I don’t know how to make them right.
And coffee. Yes, we needed that coffee. Since we’ve had kids, we sleep an average of five hours per night, so we love caffeinated beverages as well.
At home, the two of us get up about six times per meal per kid. So, like most parents, if our food is hot and cooked for us, we’re happy campers.
After breakfast, we walked down the boardwalk behind the old Riverhead Sweezy’s building to the Long Island Aquarium.
The weather was perfect, the kids were content and excited to head to the aquarium.
We are aquarium members, and it’s one of our favorite places. However, we have never visited the Butterfly Exhibit as a family.
I figured this would be a good time to go as a family, and a good way to butter the kids up.
Brian was already nervous about the other places we were going to visit and Evan was intent on following his lead.
The Butterfly Exhibit is a giant room, with ideal light and temperature for butterflies. Butterflies will land on you, which I was sure was going to send Evan into a meltdown.
They landed on Bill’s hand and Brian’s head and stomach.
I think they got the vibe from Evan that this kid was NOT into having creatures land on him. Whew. Another crisis averted.
By this point, I feel like I should be travelling with a cape.
The group is still happy, and I’m Supermom. I rock. I rule.
I run back to get Monkey Wooble by the penguins. Crisis averted … again.
Brian is already setting himself up for disaster. In his brain, he’s likened a winery to a cross between a time out and the most boring place on the universe.
Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyards is a great place to start with kids. Located right on Sound Avenue, they have plenty of parking and plenty of picnic tables.
There were also lots of families with wagons and Goldfish crackers and crying babies. Perfect. My guys will fit right in.
Brian takes out his journal that he has brought and begins drawing pictures of the aquarium trip.
Evan and I go in to the tasting room, where, almost immediately someone remarks about him looking like Ralphie from “A Christmas Story.” This is a common occurrence for Evan, who will no doubt convulse at just the thought of that movie by the time he turns 12.
We quickly discover the tasting room is kid and Monkey Wooble friendly.
They even have cupcakes at the counter.
The kids are quiet, polite and a big hit with the tasting room staff. Bribing them with cupcakes works.
Brian loves red velvet cupcakes and quickly gets Evan in line.
Bill and I each did one tasting at Baiting Hollow, he tried a Riesling and I did the White Satin.
We go out to sit on the patio, cut up the cupcake and relax. Thirty seconds later Evan is knocking down menus on one of the tables and Brian is whining that he’s bored.
Time to go see the horses.
Animals are key when going on a North Fork outing with your kids. The horses at Baiting Hollow Farm Vineyards rescued and rehabilitated. They’re very friendly and enjoy pats from the kids.
Evan loved the horses, until one of them got a little too close to Monkey Wooble. I’m guessing he won’t be coming back for a pony ride this summer, though other kids will love the pony rides and face-painting they offer from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Brian loved seeing the horses, but he’s hot and tired and looking for ways to lose his brother.
Is it 7 p.m. yet?
We headed east to Martha Clara, which describes itself as “the most family friendly winery on the North Fork.”
Martha Clara, meet the Huber boys, a mighty tough group to please.
From the moment we get out of the car, the kids are excited because they see farm animals. It’s practically written in a
little kid’s DNA to love farm animals.
We head back to the pens, where we realize that some of the kids are feeding goats and pigs. One little girl shares her pig and goat food with Evan, and I uncross my fingers when I realize he isn’t interested in eating it.
I also realized it was time to get them each their own bag (Mommy’s Law: always get two and make sure that they are EXACTLY the same).
One of the nice parents sends me over to the tiki bar on the porch where they sell sangria, mimosas and, next to the bar, pig and goat food. I fill up two bags and run back to the kids, making a note that I will be visiting the tiki bar again soon.
Evan is waiting for the bag, ready to feed the goats.
Brian is sitting on the ground, checking out the turtles. He loves turtles and proclaims this is the “best place ever.”
Suddenly, I feel like Supermom again … briefly. Next thing I know, a pig licks Evan and Brian needs to go to the bathroom.
It’s time to bribe the kids.
There are many, many great places to eat lunch on the North Fork. Which of these places did we choose? McDonald’s.
You see, if you’re going to keep your kids happy for a full day out, sometimes you have to bribe them. Mickey D’s is a great start.
But Bill and I choose to forgo the Big Macs and grabbed our lunch at the Village Cheese shop in Mattituck. For under $25, you can get more than enough cheese, crackers and sausage for two.
We took our delicious treats out to Pindar for our final vineyard spot.
Somehow I’ve managed to live my entire live on the North Fork and never visit Pindar.
The picnic pavilion there is a great place to catch your breath while the kids run around and lose theirs. They also had live music, for my little music-loving Evan. Yay.
The kids are going to calm down and have their lunches, and Bill and I are going to each have a glass of wine and enjoy some cheese, sausage and crackers. This is awesome.
As we head back to the car, I hear a tiny voice say “We forgot Monkey Wooble. I left him on the table up there.”
Daddy to the rescue and another crisis averted.
I promised the boys a trip to one of their favorite places, Greenport. They love riding the carousel, seeing the cars in Goldsmith’s Toy Shop and walking out on the docks.
No tears. No yelling. Monkey Wooble was banished to the car for his disappearing act. Life was good.
Now to Mommy’s choice for dinner, one of my favorites, the Hellenic Snack Bar. I’ve been making the trip from Mattituck to East Marion since I was Evan’s age, and it is worth it.
I had a bag full of Hot Wheels and books and crayons and was ready to go. Even though Hellenic doesn’t have a kids menu, it serves kid-friendly favorites such as hot dogs, grilled cheese and chicken fingers. Plus Brian and Evan are big fans of their orzo pasta. They also have an enclosed patio, which is great if your kids may be alittle on the excited side.
Brian and Evan drove their trucks, delivered “strawwrapper boulders” to each other and enjoyed the food. Bill and I got our gyros.
It was your typical family of four win-win-win-win.
At the end of this long day, I promised Brian and Evan ice cream from Magic Fountain. I remember going there with my dad when I was little, and I’ve been going there for over 30 years.
I got one of my new favorites, goat cheese ice cream, which is a plain base with goat cheese, cranberries and walnuts. It may sound odd, but trust me it’s delicious. Brian got his favorite, mint chocolate chip.
Bill was full, so he stayed in the car with my sleeping buddy, Evan, and his sleeping buddy, Monkey Wooble. Evan told me earlier that Woobles don’t eat ice cream anyway.
Next stop? Home.
Ten hours, two kids and three wineries. Was it tough? Yes.
Was it fun? More than you can imagine.
For a mom and dad who work about 100 hours combined per week, it was a great way to spend the day with our two little guys.