When the Reality Doesn’t Quite Match the Dream: Jack O’Lantern Version

October needs a speeding ticket, because I have some whiplash.

Yesterday we realized that our front porch lacked something very important: pumpkins. Or more specifically pumpkins best counterpart, jack o’lanterns. Somehow we made it to the end of the month without visiting a pumpkin patch, picking out our favorites, paying a ridiculous price for their orangey goodness that rots faster than you can say, “BOO,” and carving them at home — which usually involves whining. By me.

So after the boys finished up their last soccer game, I pulled up local pumpkin patches on my iPhone — meaning that I found one in our county, which seems like a cheap shot. I mean, if living in Rural America has any benefits, don’t you think one of those should be having an overabundance of pumpkin patches? Not so.

We piled into the car with LittleBrother asking before we could even buckle our seatbelts, “How long will it take to get there?” Never a good sign. Still, I pulled up the directions to Nameofroad Pike, and off we went. Thirty minutes into the drive, I learned that Nameofroad Pike and Nameofroad Pike Road are different roads. We turned around to heavy sighs from the back seat, and made our way to the appropriate place. Only to find that the patch in question was out of pumpkins.

Sigh. The nice gentleman let us take two small gourds and a suspect, will-probably-rot-by-tomorrow mini-pumpkin (for Callie) for free as he took pity on the ridiculous family trying to get pumpkins four days before Halloween.

We tried Aldi’s next, but alas, no pumpkins. My frustration level started to raise. We drove up the hill to that Giant Store That Has Everything from Pumpkins to Motor Oil. Right out front, pallets of pumpkins sat, waiting for us as if to say, “Where have you been?” I left my big camera in the car because what says, “Oh hi, I’m a failure as a mother because instead of taking the boys to the Pumpkin Patch and creating lasting family memories, we’re grabbing last minute pumpkins in the parking lot of Walmart,” than a giant camera? I still snapped some pictures with my phone, because I’m me.

Almost Looks Legit

You almost can’t tell we’re in the parking lot of a giant superstore that I loathe, right? But I’ll always know. The boys, however, didn’t care one lick. The excitement level of the boys was that of pure joy. They simply wanted pumpkins; they didn’t care that they were from a superstore. They walked around the pumpkins, talking about the qualities of each — too bumpy, too dirty, too small, too large, too rotten. Eventually, they each picked their favorite. I found one and so did FireDad.

Choosing Pumpkins

Picking Pumpkins...

BigBrother with His Chosen

LittleBrother with His Chosen

We paid for our pumpkins, behind a mother and daughter also purchasing pumpkins — and I felt a little better — and we headed home to get our carve on.


That never quite goes as planned, does it? “I can’t get all the stuff out with the spoon!” “So use your hands.” “It’s gross! No way!” And so I gutted three pumpkins instead of just my own.

I don’t know what’s better: LittleBrother’s facial expression or the knife sticking out of FireDad’s pumpkin in the background.

Three Guts-Worth

LittleBrother wanted a simple, normal jack o’lantern design. BigBrother, in true BigBrother fashion, wanted some ridiculously intricate design he created to look like Mario. We crushed his Halloween-loving soul by admitting that we, the parents, don’t possess that carving ability. I think we ruined his belief that parents are perfect with that admission, but seriously, I’m lucky I can cut a pumpkin at all. He eventually drew a face we felt like we could manage.

LittleBrother's Pumpkin

BigBrother's Pumpkin

My pumpkin became my most favorite jack o’lantern ever. My husband rolled his eyes. I think he’s just jealous he didn’t think of it first. I win at pumpkins.


Once the carving finally hit completion, delayed by helping a neighbor, we took the pumpkins outside, placed candles inside (which shocked me because firefighter), and stood back to marvel at our creations.

Four Jack O'Lanterns

To say that the boys felt pleased with the finished project is an understatement. They were elated. Overjoyed. Talking and rejoicing and generally being the happy boys I know and love. With pumpkins. From a grocery store.

Their joy wasn’t short-lived either. As we went outside to wait for the bus this morning, they hovered over our smiling (and angry) orange orbs on our front porch. “Mommy! There’s even frost inside their eyes!” They marveled over the space in which their love of weather and science slammed into their love of Halloween, crouching down in front of their individual jack o’lanterns, smiling and poking fingers at the frost. I just shook my head and smiled.

Frostbitten Pumpkin

No, we didn’t make it to the pumpkin patch this year, but I have two very happy boys. Best jack o’lantern year ever.


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12 Replies to “When the Reality Doesn’t Quite Match the Dream: Jack O’Lantern Version”

  1. Sometimes it is hard to remember that it is the end NOT the means with kids. Hallmark won’t go out of business because you missed one year at the pumpkin patch :). LOVE LOVE LOVE your pumpkin. Pat yourself on the back. Sometimes doing things differently IS the memory.

    Your local chicken family would love the guts and event the gourds themselves when you’re finished being ghoulish :)

    1. Ooh, I’ll send off the gourds to my friend who has chickens after Halloween. (We have already de-gutted some seeds for roasting and rid the rest. Oops. But now we know for next year!)

  2. I remember wanting To take Maren to our local pumpkin patch. I was 7-8 months pregnant with Ella and not in the moods. Maren was 5. I got lost. It was closed. We ended up at Mcdonalds for a milk shake. She did have a pumpkin shirt on though! These traditions come with stress sometimes!! I think she eventually got a pumpkin that year…. Not super sure of much those final months before Ella came calling!

  3. One thing I’ve noticed is very helpful scooping the goop is our ice cream scoop! Basic, fairly sharp metal edge, it scrapes the inside very c lean. Works better than my kitchen serving spoons…

    1. We don’t even have a normal ice cream scoop. We have this weird flat spoon thing. We don’t really eat ice cream at home. We used some ooooold serving spoons handed down to us that are RIDICULOUSLY sharp, but the kids still can’t do it, so it’s still on me. My arm was sore the next day. heh

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