An October weekend is sunny cornfields, mountains of laundry, a crisp morning with the first wisps of visible breath.
Apple-cider donuts. Driving with the windows down. Trying on our costumes weeks in advance, and “practicing” our trick-or-treating.
Dodging the candy aisle in Target. Begrudgingly tucking arms into jackets, all shed by lunchtime. Crunching through a yard full of leaves.
Packing away the shorts and tees, then shopping to cover the kids’ ever-longer limbs. Replacing their whole wardrobe as they grow taller. Listening hard as they grow funnier, and wiser.
Chili on the stovetop, cornbread in the oven. Pies and whipped cream with an extra “shot” right from the can. Watching “Boss Baby” while I wash bedding. Fielding requests for “Peppa Pig” as we dim the lights for bedtime, now earlier and earlier.
It’s the four of us settling down on a Sunday night, with the house smelling of Lysol and (most of) the toys all tucked away.
It’s another donut for good measure. Monday’s on its way.
When autumn comes, it doesn’t ask.
It just walks in where it left you last.
You never know when it starts
until there’s fog inside the glass
around your summer heart.
What reminds you of fall?
For me, it’s John Mayer’s “Heavier Things.” Buying the album on CD that first fall of my freshman year with cash from my first job. Watching the fog clear on the windshield of my old Corolla — the one before the one I’m currently selling, now that the minivan life has taken its hold. Listening to “Clarity” while I felt both too young and too old at college.
It’s dinner in the slow cooker — stews, chili. Chicken and wild rice soup.
Warm quilts. Sweatpants. Candy corn.
Stowing away flip-flops, digging out boots. Warm, sunny afternoons and crisp evenings.
Mums on porches. Mornings thick with dew. Finding last season’s jackets and slipping little arms into their sleeves, wondering if anything still fits.
This year, it’s also my son pointing out each crispy leaf, asking if we’re any closer to Halloween. Excitedly announcing that “it’s fall time!” with a commitment to giving a home to any lonely pumpkin we see … just like his mama.
My heart is not a summer heart. I adore spring, when my babies were born, and winter has its cozy charms.
But fall is still my favorite. Let’s get started.
Do I make these every year?
Am I totally, completely OK with that?
Now that Oliver is so fun and aware of the world around him, one of my favorite things to do is to drag him to seemingly “ordinary” activities and watch him just … take it all in.
They say that to live again is to view the world through the eyes of a child. And I can’t think of any better way to describe that. A fallen leaf, a cardboard box, a Target receipt — all items of intense interest to my 17-month-old, and seeing him try to make sense of these things gives me a fresh perspective, too.
Since fall is undoubtedly my favorite season, I’m dreaming of corn mazes and hot apple cider and cozy fleece and pumpkin patches. Last fall I was dealing with some pretty intense anxiety as a first-time parent, and honestly? Autumn was a bit of a blur.
But this year? I am better. Gold feels golden again. I am less the husk of a tired mother and more the somewhat-capable, excited and “normal”-ish woman that I remember from so many years ago.
There are never enough days in October and November, so I’m not going to worry if we can’t get to every single one of these delectably-autumnal activities. But I’m going to make a concentrated push to fill the family calendar with fun (and funnel cake!), and to soak up my favorite of seasons with our family of three before we’re zombie people again next year.
Johnson Family Fall Bucket List
- Visit a pumpkin patch and find the perfect gourds for carving. We always bring pumpkins home, but don’t necessarily carve them for Halloween — definitely want to do that this year. Ollie is going to flip out at the sight of pumpkin guts!
- Hit as many craft fairs as humanly possible. I spent several days compiling a master list of all the local shows happening this fall for my magazine at work, and to be honest? That “work” was not work at all. Sometimes I open the link just to salivate at the idea of all the fun shopping we’ll be doing. Craft fairs are an annual tradition with my mom and sister, and I am SO EXCITED about these.
- Check out a corn maze. Many farms here in Southern Maryland open their doors for folks wishing to “get lost” in family-friendly mazes, and Spence and I hit a few early in our relationship. Those are happy memories for me, and I can’t wait to take Oliver.
- Make hot cider. In a slow cooker. Maybe with this recipe, or this one.
- Host a Halloween gathering. This spooky holiday falls on a Monday this year (bleh), but I’m hoping we can convince our family and some friends to swing by while we give out candy. Our neighborhood is pretty quiet, so we don’t get many trick-or-treaters, but we’ll be taking Ollie out to hit a few houses! And definitely watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “Hocus Pocus.”
- Speaking of which… watch “Hocus Pocus”! Tradition. My husband tries to get me to sit down for “The Nightmare Before Christmas” on Halloween, too, but my 31-year-old self still gets spooked by that one. I don’t know how a scaredy cat like me wound up with ardent Tim Burton fan, but … here we are. (Don’t mind me — just hiding behind the couch.)
- Rake leaves and jump in the piles. Ah, to be young again.
- Roast pumpkin seeds. Our attempt at this last year was a big fail, but I’m convinced we didn’t give the seeds the attention they deserved. This will dovetail nicely with carving our jack-o-lanterns. I’m stoked!
So there you have it, friends — our to-do list for the next few months. Anything on your fall bucket list, too? Any additional suggestions? I’m always up for some new autumn fun.
Taking Oliver on his first fall walk, just as the leaves began to burst into reds and golds
Trying to soak up some fall color at Gilbert Run Park, which didn’t cooperate . . .
but we did make a few friends on the water!
For more Wordless Wednesday, visit here
Despite my static-filled silence, friends, I promise I’m a busy little bee back here in my solitude. Last weekend featured a surprise leopard-themed 75th birthday party for my grandma, who seemed shocked indeed, as well as a visit to one of our favorite local parks. Though the leaves weren’t too impressive, it was nice to walk around and soak up a little nature before winter gets here.
Winter. I shudder.
Saturday will be another fun family day as we celebrate a dear cousin’s baby shower, and I am determined — determined, I tell you! — to get through some of the remaining boxes currently littering our office and basement. One of the spare rooms upstairs has also become a dumping ground for my childhood memorabilia, and I have the sinking suspicion I should, like, do something about that.
I don’t know.
The house has gotten away from me. We stopped by our condo this week to just check things over (still looking for a renter/buyer, God help us), and I swear I wanted to fold myself up into one of its rooms and stay there. I love the house, don’t get me wrong — it’s amazing, and it’s ours — but the condo was cozy and warm. Comfortable. Familiar.
In many ways, I still feel like a kid who somehow wormed her way into owning property . . . it doesn’t seem conceivable that Spencer and I are actual adults with actual bills and an actual house, as opposed to the cute apartment we shared. I feel completely old enough to have an apartment, but a three-story structure I’m responsible for maintaining? All those toilets for the cleaning?
But I won’t dwell on that. I certainly have no regrets, and our house is our house. As much as I love the rooms and space and the library, though, sometimes I do get wistful for our first place. I only lived there myself eight months, but Spence was there for years — and we have so, so many memories there.
But, you know. Now I’m depressing myself.
Let’s talk about my favorite subject: food! I’ve been prowling Pinterest like a champ, mostly because I totally cheated on Halloween and have just gone straight to Thanksgiving. I have approximately 10 million fall-inspired recipes I want to try, but I won’t torture guests with an exclusively pumpkin buffet. Though we’re still ironing out the details, I believe we’ll be hosting the holiday meal this year — a first! — and I’m not nervous so much as fearful of breaking tradition. Thanksgiving has always been at my grandparents’ house, but sometimes change can be a good thing?
I’m going with that.
Happy weekend, friends!