"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers."
- Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery 

It's that time of year, friends, when we rejoice in the glories of fall. We wax poetic on the changing leaves. We sip our pumpkin lattes in a pair of riding boots and a new plaid scarf. We stock up on fall-scented products for ourselves and our living spaces. We buy pumpkins for front porches or mantles, or anywhere really, that's in need of some autumn cheer. 

As a mother to three kids under ten, I know this is an especially sweet time of year to make family memories. We visit the pumpkin patch, drink apple cider, take family photos among the falling leaves. It's magical, right? Or perhaps a little bit crazy. Let's look at three of the best fun fall family activities: the pumpkin patch, family photos, and apple picking.


1. The Pumpkin Patch

This is where fall spirit truly lives, am I right? You show up decked out in cute fall vests, boots, and scarves, only to discover that you are either sweating profusely or should have grabbed that winter coat. After paying the price of admission, pumpkins not included, you enter the hallowed gates of autumn. There's the corn maze, animal pens, and pumpkins galore. Your son starts sniffling the minute he steps into hay, having a full-blown allergy attack by the end of the hayride (that's another $5 per person). During the hayride, your toddler decides she really wants to touch the scarecrow so she wrestles you with the prowess of a MMA fighter in an attempt to leap from the moving vehicle. Your middle child wanders into the corn maze on her own and you spend the next hour trying to locate her. Turns out she found a cozy dead-end and is playing make-believe, oblivious to your stress.

By the time you finally make it to the actual pumpkins, you're exhausted. You beg your kids to "just pick one, for goodness sake" before realizing that they have found the world's ugliest pumpkin among the gorgeous gourds . You tell them, beg them, plead with them, to choose another pumpkin until you put your foot down and hastily choose one that looks generally round and good-sized. Clearly, it's time to go home. As your partner drags them sobbing to the parking lot, you run to the pay station where you discover that this one pumpkin, which looks much less perfect than it did in the field, is going to cost you $22 dollars, cash only. It's enough to make you want to scream into your blanket scarf. Next year, you're grabbing a pumpkin from that cardboard bin outside Walmart.


2. Family Photos

Your mother-in-law has been asking for an updated photo of her grandkids, including a photo of the youngest one not in a costume, so you decide it's probably time to take family photos. After asking around on social media, you choose a cute young photographer who is rumored to be good with kids. Her prices make your eyes water, but you figure memories are priceless and write the check.

Before the photo shoot, it's extremely important to choose the right clothes. Your goal is to look young and rested, while your kids look like babyGap models and your partner appears to be gracefully aging (making you, by contrast, look even younger and more fabulous). After an evening lost to Pinterest and online shopping, you finally settle on coordinating outfits from Target which run you several hundred dollars. This photo shoot is going to be completely worth the cost.

The day of the photo shoot dawns clear and sunny, but storms are brewing inside your home. Your youngest sobs when you wrangle her into a dress without any sparkles and she refuses to wear any shoes other than a dirty old pair of unicorn sneakers. Your oldest comes to you in tears over the mystery of buttoning his oxford shirt, while your other child has various and sundry complaints that you decisively ignore. Your partner forgets it's picture day and shows up unshaven in his favorite hoodie. You wonder why you painstakingly update the Google calendar as you brush hair and spot-check little clothes. By the time you make it to the shoot you're overwhelmed, frazzled, and forgot to apply lipstick.

The photoshoot itself is a marathon of "look over here!" and "how about a smile?"  You pray the photos turn out well and shamelessly bribe your kids with large bowls of ice cream. When the photos arrive in your inbox, you cross your fingers and click on the folder. Well, it could be better. Your son decided it was a great day to perfect his Joker face and looks terrifyingly sinister in most shots. Your daughter wasn't actually sure where to look, despite numerous coaching sessions, and appears to be thoughtfully staring into space most of the time. Your partner appears to have the chiseled features of a young George Clooney and be surrounded by an ethereal glow, while you look closer to 40 than you'd like. But then. Then you stumble on the perfect combination of smiles and lighting and poses. It's the one, and now the whole ordeal feels worth it. Not only will this photo feature in your Christmas card and on your mantle, it will be the only one you take for a good five years. You and your budget both need some time to recover.


3. Apple Picking

In your mind's eye, apple picking is a day of fall breezes, perfect rows of trees, delicious fruit, and sweet memories. When you planned this amazing day, you originally imagined showing up in the cool morning air with your happy children and caffeinated self. Turns out they don't open until noon. So now it's juggling an early lunch plus apple picking before you fly home for naps. By the time you arrive, the kids' fall sweaters are covered in lunch crumbs and the toddler is getting cranky. You're thrilled to see wagons by the entrance so you grab one and load your crew and overflowing diaper bag. But wait! As you pass through the gates the owner informs you that wagons are for those picking bushels of apples, not just a basket. Well then. Looks like you'll be hauling everyone the quarter mile to the orchard.

By the time you reach the apple trees you're exhausted. Is it nap time yet? Your older kids race past you toward the trees, whooping and grabbing every apple they can find, no matter if it's worm-eaten or on the ground. Your toddler puts a basket on her head, and systematically takes one bite out of every apple she can reach, managing to leave each bitten apple attached to the tree. After corralling your circus, you fill a basket with mostly unscarred apples. You only spill it once, when your son yells "Look Mom, no hands!" so you figure the apples are going to be just fine. At this point, you realize you have taken exactly zero photos of your adventure. Quickly lining up your kids, you snap a few shots while they push each other and try to force feed one another apples. No selfies today, the cute fall attire does not extend to your old leggings and hoodie.

You walk back to the pay station and are excited to find out they also offer apple cider. Obviously, everyone needs to have a sample (or two). It didn't occur to you that it might be hot apple cider until your eight-year-old showers you with hot liquid straight from his mouth. Note to self, bring ice cubes next year. You grab a jug of the cider, more as an apology than anything, and quickly purchase it along with your apples. You did it! You made a memory with your kids. Perhaps baking delicious apple desserts can wait until next year.


Happy autumn wishes to all of you, friends. It's going to be magical, darn it, even if we have to make the magic ourselves.


Melanie lives near Raleigh, NC with her husband and three kids. She loves hot coffee, good books, and deep conversations. Connect with her on Instagram via @intentional_motherhood