I invented a pumpkin patch challenge. Maybe we failed. But probably not.

by Janelle Hanchett

I love October and I love pumpkin patches. Can’t really explain why. Some things attract you for reasons unknown. Like Mick Jagger, for example. He’s not hot. And yet he is so hot.

Maybe it’s the simplicity (of pumpkin patches. Not Mick. I don’t know Mick that well.)

Maybe it’s the month marking the end of the relentless Central Valley of California heat. It’s still 80 during the day, but the nights. Oh god, finally the nights are cool.

It’s the rows of orange and the corn mazes. It’s everyone picking out just the right pumpkin. It’s the wagons. It’s definitely the wagons.


So this year, while driving by our favorite pumpkin patch announcing its opening, I told my kids with not a small amount of glee that we will be visiting the pumpkin patch nine times this year. George was all FUCK YEAH but my older kids were like “come again?”

“Yes. Nine times. It’s happening GET INTO IT.”

Then I called my husband and told him my idea and he too was into it because he’s beautiful and why have kids if you can’t mess with them. I decided seven times was enough. I posted on Facebook my brilliant idea but a friend told me he’d unfriend me if I didn’t do nine and since he posts the best photos ever of guinea pigs in capes I couldn’t let that happen. So nine it was.

I made up a hashtag called #kidpumpkintorture.

Mac and I calculated we would have to go twice a week. And we did.


For a week. One week.

Then we got strep throat. One by one.

We made up for it by going to three places in one day.

Then most of us got it again. That was last week.


Now it’s November 1. We’ve been to seven. Maybe we can get to a couple places this week, when they’re still open, or maybe we missed the goal of our made-up pumpkin patch challenge.

Seven is pretty good, though, considering we were sick for two weeks and my husband is home three hours a day five days a week. It’s been that way since February. I’m fucking tired of it. Over it. Done having our family torn up. Done feeling sorta alone. We’re a team, goddamnitmotherfuckers.


On trip #4 the baby bawled and wailed on the tractor. Sometimes Mac and I argued. Sometimes the oldest raged. Pretty sure the whole strawberry field heard me when I yelled “Get back here!” as she stormed off to the car. The 5-year-old lost her shit when Mac combined her half-eaten basket of cherry tomatoes with the other basket. We had to listen to that all the way to trip #6.

It was like everything we do as a family: So perfect in advance. So messy in execution.

Still, many evenings after work and school this month we’d look around at the crap all over the floor and dishes in the sink and say “Well we’re never going to meet our goal if we don’t go today.”

So we’d head to the corn bath.

It was silly. It was frivolous.

It was really freaking fun. Sorry. I can’t do my ‘adult’ work today because I made up a pumpkin patch challenge and I’m oddly attached to it.

That’s it. Just fun. Done for the sake of doing it. For the fucking hell of it. Because we can. Because it’s weird. Because we’re together and we’re a family and there’s NOT ENOUGH WEIRDNESS EVER.

It all feels redundant, you know? Monotonous. Yeah, I’ll say it: It gets BORING.

I drive. I cook. I clean I write I post on Instagram and it all looks clean and well-filtered and as promised. I wake up so tired my face hurts. My eyes burn. I stare at the road and my eyes blur for a moment. Another 1.5 hours of driving around picking up and dropping off kids. 17,345 loads of laundry.

Monday Tuesday Thursday another day week month. Fuck it let’s get lost in a corn maze.

It’s a small and maybe cliched thing, but as I walked out the door to spend two hours at a pumpkin patch with 150 other things “to do,” I remembered my power in creating my own reality, that we’ve got to throw some fucking nonsense into the mix.

So much reason, all the time. Work. Work. Pay bills. Repeat. Someone suggested I “live for the weekends.”

Oh fuck me sideways there’s not enough time for that. On earth. In life.

I guess sometimes I need to get a little ridiculous with the people around me, devote myself to made-up things, watch my kids’ faces as we drop responsibilities to meet the requirements of a “meaningless” invented Facebook challenge.

This wasn’t about my kids, though. This was about all of us.

As we walked in one of the last trips, I said “Aren’t you kids glad we’ll always have the memory of the Great Pumpkin Patch Challenge of 2015?”

The oldest two immediately responded “What do you mean? We’re totally doing this next year.”

So much for the torture portion. Oh well.

Why have parents if you can’t mess with them?

Really, why even be alive?

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37 Comments | Posted in weeks of mayhem | November 1, 2015
  • Phillipa

    You already know this, but I have to just say it. You have such a gorgeous family.

  • Tiffini S.

    Man, you must be millionaires. Pumpkin patches here in the midwest cost at least a hundred bucks just for a family of five to get in the door. If we actually bought anything, lunch would be another $40 or so and donuts and cider would run $50. And that would be leaving without pumpkins.

    • renegademama

      Yeah. We’re totally millionaires. I thought that was clear since my husband works construction and I write and teach.

      All sarcasm aside, I live in an ag area. There are tons of patches. We didn’t pay to get into even one place. A $200 trip to a pumpkin patch? That’s utterly insane.

      • Lou Taylor

        Love you more with each piece you post. Awesome….all the way, awesome! I guess Tiffini missed the comment policy about trying not to be a dick. Maybe you should amend that to a simple DON’T be a dick. Just sayin’.

      • Adria

        Are there GOLDEN PUMPKINS in the Midwest??????????????

        • Adria

          Not trying to be a dick back but even in Los Angeles it doesn’t cost a thing to go INTO the pumpkin patches. Just astounded.

        • renegademama

          Hahahahahhahaahaha Adria! Dying. For sure those Midwest pumpkins are 14K gold with diamond stems.

        • Angie

          I’m originally from the Midwest also and while Tiffini’s comment was not worded very well she is right about having to pay to get in although $100 just to get in still seems exaggerated to me. The reason is not golden pumpkins, although that would have been bad ass, it’s because there are very few that are JUST pumpkin patches. Most often they are attached to corn mazes (not free either) or cider mills, or farms (that charge entry). I live in Idaho now, not all that far from Cali, and I didn’t hear of any places where you could get in and pick pumpkins for free that weren’t grocery stores or parking lots. The post also made me think about how much it must have cost for your challenge but what you spent or didn’t spend isn’t really any of my business nor the point of the challenge/post. That’s awesome that you have so many free places to go for that.

    • LS

      WTF pumpkin patches are you talking about. I live in the Midwest too and definitely went to a place that was free to get into. $2 hay ride, a few bucks for the corn maze, etc. Completely reasonable.

      • Nic

        WTF Midwest are they even talking about? Maybe Minnesota – if they have golden gophers, maybe their pumpkins are golden too?

    • Tina

      That’s incredibly insane. Here, you pay for what you buy, you pay for the little hay ride thing that takes you around, but to walk in the door? Nope, and we only have one pumpkin patch. The corn maze has a fee, of course, but they aren’t associated with each other. Pumpkin patch is at the orchard – well, either north or south of us, and you pay for your purchases, etc. Then there is the haunted hayride at the boy scout camp on weekends in October. Then there is the Great Corn Maze near one of the elementary schools in the area, an actual working farm that they just decide before planting season what the pattern of the maze is going to be.

  • Jessie

    What are we doing for November?

    Because you nailed it…

    “So much reason, all the time. Work. Work. Pay bills. Repeat. Someone suggested I “live for the weekends.”

    Oh fuck me sideways there’s not enough time for that. On earth. In life.”

  • Juanita

    Damn it, woman. The feels, all the feels. You just get me. Even when I am not looking for it. Bam. Life is just so daily. Thanks for the “me too” moment. You rock.

  • becatgrowinghome

    The best.

  • Sue

    Where I am, we had a severe drought and there was a serious pumpkin shortage. I am not kidding. Literally the day before Halloween, moms on Facebook groups were trading bottles of wine for uncarved pumpkins. It was crazy!

    Love the pictures, looks like you guys had a blast!

  • Deana

    Today, November 1st, I told my kids (4 and 5 years old) if they were good, we’d drive around to all the church pumpkin patches and see which ones were giving away all their left over pumpkins. We hit the jackpot at the first stop! The looks on their faces loading 55 pumpkins into a red wagon in the drizzling rain was well worth the $5.00 donation I made. I don’t know what the hell we’re going to do with all those damn pumpkins, but the experience was priceless. My five year old said, “Now people will drive by our house and see all these pumpkins on our porch and want to stop at OUR pumpkin patch and get a pumpkin!”

    • Denise B

      I love this, Deana! I’m inspired now to do something fun/crazy to lift us from the mundane in our lives!!

  • Joannie Foley

    Here’s what I think- kids on haystack could be your Xmas card. Two youngest at sunset is too beautiful NOT to put in a frame and you and Mac picture goes on counter or wall. Print out the rest of photos and keep in zip locked baggie with post. Photos and words craft a well told story.

  • Rose Gilbert

    I just have to comment every time cause I want you to know how much I love reading you. Wish I didn’t live on the east coast. ( or maybe a good thing I do, I would probably be totally stalking you otherwise:) My kids are close to or in college, and the waves of nostalgia and memories ( and the validation – ” So perfect in advance.So messy in execution ” -OMG YES !) that flow over me as I read your pieces is extreme. Thank you for helping me revist a different life. That was literally only a decade ago.

  • lindsey

    everytime i read a post of yours, i feel like there is no one in the world who can relate to my experience as a mother as much as you do.

    • Lou Taylor

      Lindsey..I feel exactly the same way and I don’t even have any damn kids because I don’t really like them! I rather like these kids because they are so cool which attests to the benefits of renegade mothering. Now that I’m too old to have any I read her articles and think, “Well crap! I might have been an ok mother after all!” I’m certainly not going to put it to the test by running out and adopting from Sri Lanka or some other motherless child country, but still…..

    • Adria

      Aw I feel the same way 🙂

  • carrie

    Look at how Rocket is looking at you in the last photo. A boy and his Mama. Also, the pic of kids at the haystack, you couldn’t get a better picture of them from a professional, expensive photographer! Looks like lots of fun was had.

  • Joodz

    Strawberries in October? You live in heaven on earth.

  • laura

    Gosh I hate you so much you are amazing and lovely and this just made me want to cry. And, when I say hate, you know I mean that other thing, dammit!

  • Andrea

    Awesome, as always. So easy to get caught in all the crap that needs to get done, that we don’t actually do any of the fun stuff… and then weeks pass and shit! there goes those weeks of childhood/parenthood! Thank You for the reminder and inspiration!!! Also, I love how your son is looking at your in the last picture. so sweet.

  • Andrea V. J.

    I thought I was too busy this year to get the family to a pumpkin patch, the first in many years that I’ve skipped our annual trip. I missed it.

    Seven pumpkin patches!!? You win parenting this fall!

  • Bernadette Nixon

    ” I’ve got too much time to be wasting to be standing around here doing things”-Tigger

  • Nicole

    Don’t ever stop writing! Ever ever ever. Please and thank you.

  • Tracey

    You’re amazing! Getting to 7 pumpkin patches with the whole family, despite 2 weeks of sickness. I’m in Australia, so while I understand the general concept of your pumpkin patches, I’ve never really seen one. We eat pumpkin all year round and can grow it at home, but your excursions sound like heaps of fun. You have a beautiful family and you’ve spent a few weeks making lots of special memories together, that’s worth more than gold. Love your photos, by the way. Good on you for getting out of that Mummy Rut that we seem to live in.

  • Momtothree

    I too noticed that look of love in your boy’s eyes.
    Dammit woman, for a renegade you must be doing something right.
    Loved the post …
    Carved pumpkin photo maybe ?

    • Tina

      And did you notice how much Rocket is starting to look like his Mama, as well. But yes, his look of love is just about all I see in that picture.

  • Andrea Mae

    Fabulous. Love the shake up of the norm. We rock that way as well. Hope your throats are all mended 🙂
    3 “Andrea’s” posting here? I think I have met 3 in my whole life!

  • Jamie

    Can I just say that your children are gorgeous and perfect and your husband’s beard is absolutely magnificent.

  • Stacey

    Love this, as always.

  • Robyn

    Seriously. This post just gave me so much hope.

    I am on my way to work right now, after an adventurous morning of my two oldest fighting.
    Sometimes I too get lost in everyday tasks. My fiance feels it, I feel it. Its so damn time consuming and we end up getting so stressed out it that it feels like we will never get out of it.

    I wonder what challenge I can come up with.
    Ya know. It bring the family back.

  • Tracy

    Thank you for the ‘real-ness’. I love the FB Challenge just because! I am going to spring this on my boys who LOOOOVE to be pulled away from their computers, NOT! In the NW the pumpkin patches are NOT FREE…but who cares, the memories are worth it! I have been on a Pumpkin Patch free rant for a few years..as the kids schools drug me thru alot. Anways…Thanks for the ideas! Please keep them coming! FUCK-YEAH! 🙂