What Have I Done?

A couple months ago (apparently, time flies) I posted about my dreams of achieving craft and gardening Success.  I’d like to check in on me and see how I’ve done.   And what I’ve learned.

For starters, lavender doesn’t grow.  It’s a myth.  Who knows what’s in all the things that are labeled “lavender.”  Because lavender seeds you plant will just turn into more dirt, as if it never happened.

On the craft front: My friends have come over for craft day.

I served them iced mint tea.

I bought some material for pillows and other crafts, so every once in awhile I get it out and gaze at it while they labor away at their sewing and wool animals.  Although yes, I finally got three pictures painted for the girls’ room.  Not Etsy-worthy but definitely “My-Mom-Made-This-For-Us-Isn’t-She-An-Affectionate-Dork” Little Girls’ Room worthy. IMG_0715IMG_0706

Obviously not to scale.  Paint AND use my brain?  Don’t be ridiculous.

Still no dollhouse (I still have six months to procrastinate on that Christmas gift), still no terrarium (but I told someone about my idea – does that count?), and still no sewing projects (That’s a winter sport.)

Before you think I have totally reneged on all my ambitions, let me turn your attention to my garden.

I can grow some things really well.  Like periwinkle.  I spent two weeks digging up someone else’s Bad Idea to rearrange my hardscaping.  Two weeks, people.  And it is still sprouting cheerfully.  So, yeah.  I can grow periwinkle really well.  Without even trying.  I can almost hear it saying, as those glossy new leaves poke up out of the dirt, over and over, “Well!  We’re back!  Whew, dark down there!  But we’re young and invincible.  Happy to see us?”

And spinach.  We have harvested bowlful after bowlful of it.  Send me your spinach recipes!  I was so proud of it.  My first shining sign of success.  Then the neighbor came over and said, “Your peas are coming along nicely. I think something’s eating your spinach, though.”  “Oh, yeah, that was us.”  (Then I ran in to look up how to harvest spinach.  And yes neighbor, we can pick some leaves and leave the rest to keep growing.  So I’m not feeling embarrassed anymore.)  One day of sun later, and I go check it.  It’s suddenly tall and the leaves are a different shape.  So now I can tell you all about bolting.  At least I won’t need to buy spinach seeds for next year.

You have to water mint plants in a pot like, daily.  They are so Needy.  They are on “real person” level with the kind of attention they require.  The good news is that they revive from severe cases of the Wilts fairly easily.  Also, fun fact that I learned from my friend years ago (“So you can recognize it by the roadside!”) is that mint plants have square stems.  Next fact: stinging nettle also has something like a square stem.  You only make that mistake once.  Then you belatedly realize that despite similar stems, stinging nettle definitely has a sinister look about it that mint lacks.  It also grows really really well in our soil.  Some stalks, if left unchecked for six months while the owner goes overseas, have been known to reach heights of five feet. (Speaking from personal experience is not all it’s cracked up to be.) That’s deadly.  Also edible, but we aren’t that desperate yet.

One more thing I can grow really well is some kind of bush/tree.  I have two of them and have no idea what they are but they are taking over the clothesline and the sidewalk.  I go out and whack away at them every other week and they just keep growing, as if they relish bad haircuts.  Maybe I should braid the limbs.

Here it is when we moved in.


And here it is two years after my lax discipline.

IMG_9186I clearly am not in control of the situation.

In about two more years, I will need someone to come hack through the stinging nettle, periwinkle, and hair bush to rescue me from the house.  Just like Aurora.  See?  Overgrown weeds are like a fairy tale.  And I at least have three pictures and some spinach to show for all my work.



When I was young, and chatting up a storm at my increasingly annoyed older brother, he finally turned to me and patiently explained, “Andra, everyone gets a certain number of words to use in life.  You should be careful or you’re going to run out of words before you’re grown up and then you won’t be able to talk.”  That shut me up.

We’ll skip all of the things we could say about this (his genius, my gullibility, our relationship, misuse of power, etc).  The thing is, all this time I’d been sure he was bluffing, but now I’m not so sure.   There are days (okay, every day) when I feel at some point that I’ve just run out of words.  I’m done talking.  It is SUCH an effort to think with someone else.

Because that’s what conversation is – matching up your thoughts with someone else’s, jogging alongside another brain’s trail.  Frankly, it’s exhausting.

I think there are people who are great conversationalists and they drive the topic.  It’s not exhausting for them.  It’s just bad for those of us who are trying to get our thoughts in line with the leader.  Am I making sense?  I’ll specify.  Here’s a conversation with my little girl in the car:

“Mommy, can people sit down?”

“Uh, yes.”

“Can storks sit down?”
“Uh, yes.” [can’t they?  I think so.  Yes, I’ve seen them do it in their nest.  Good, got that one right.]

“Can cars sit down?”

“Um, not really.  No.”

“Why not?”

“Cars can drive and stop.  That’s all.  They can’t sit down.”
“Can bicycles sit down?”

This went on for quite a bit.  It seems simple (and maybe even cute to those of you who don’t deal with this every five minutes of every hour of every day) but you have to pay attention.  It’s not “uh huh” over and over while your mind wanders over the next hour of grocery shopping and plans date night.  It’s getting half-way through your own thought and getting pulled back (play back what she asked really quickly, think about it, form and answer, make yourself move your lips to answer) into the mind of a four-year old over and over.  And four-year olds are particularly prone to fantasy, which makes it even harder to get matched up with their line of thought.


Then when my husband comes home, I’ve got to switch gears to adult-style (which is the difference between riding a purple turtle through a lake of strawberry frosting to a castle  on the shore and riding a nice Sedan through the streets of a city – not an easy transition).  The poor man gets a few coherent sentences of conversation out of me and then my words run out.  Just like my brother said they would.

So divy up your allotted amount of talking wisely.  There could be a lot of us old ladies sitting quietly, words all used up, in a few years.

Snack Plate

My kids are at the age when they are about to eat us out of house and home.  I used to roll my eyes when I heard other people say that.  “It’s just food. How expensive could that be?”  But now I know better.

The money issue was only part of the problem for me.  What bothered me even more was the constant pleading for more food.  I literally (and I’m not using that word figuratively) would be washing up the lunch dishes, wiping down the counters and they would walk up (from the table) and say, sandwich crumbs on their cheeks, “What can I have for a snack?”  And then all afternoon, they kept me completely informed by the half hour about how empty their poor little tummies were, begging for scraps lest they wither away and die.

I was going crazy.

So I came up with a solution.  I put a plate of food on the table every afternoon.  That is their snack allotment for the day and when it’s gone, it’s gone.  They are not allowed to ask me for anything different, or for anything else.  But here’s the winning part: They do not have to ask me if they can eat anything that’s on the snack plate.  They love this.  They get to be in charge of when and what and how much they eat (from the snack plate but at seven and four years of age, this suffices as “in charge”).  I decide on cheap, healthy choices and then get left alone the rest of the afternoon about feeding them.  I love this.  Win-win.

Sometimes I take the opportunity to clear out the cabinets.  Leftover whole-wheat crackers from our game party last weekend.  Pumpkin seeds that have been in there so long I thought they were part of the house.  Cereal bits that won’t make a whole bowl full for breakfast.

Sometimes I get fun and make a “theme.”  Round things.  (Grapes, blueberries, cherry tomatoes, and boiled eggs.) Red things. (Red bell pepper strips, strawberries, tomatoes, four red gummy bears.)  On Fridays I like to make it a special treat – banana muffins and maybe carrot sticks to balance the treat part.

Scientifically, I’m not sure how this works, but my kids will almost always completely devour whatever is on the plate.  At dinnertime, fill their plate with carrot sticks and almonds and they will totally balk and spend the entire evening sitting and staring at the grossness I’m making them eat.  But on Snack Plate, different story.  Wild.

And my husband and I find ourselves grabbing a carrot stick to munch on since it’s right there on the table.  Convenience is everything.  I’m such a big fan of this Snack Plate idea. We are all eating really healthy snacks, the kids are getting another intake of vegetables and fruits, my cabinets aren’t so stuffed with junk I bought and we never finished, and everyone is happy about being in charge of their own afternoon eating.

Now my son’s first question when I pick him up from school is, “What’s on the Snack Plate today?”  No matter that it’s a turquoise plate full of vegetables.  It’s Snack Plate! It’s all about the marketing.  Freaky but awesome.IMG_8694

It Takes So Little

We had some young adults visiting the other day and as I held my toddler, one guy held out his big man hand to her and she was enchanted.  They were just touching fingers and my baby kept giggling with joy.  The guy smiled and said, “Kids.  It takes so little to make them happy.”IMG_1229

That really struck me.  Of course, I knew immediately that he was right.  But I hadn’t given it much thought.  We spend a lot of time talking about how demanding raising kids is.  (Probably because it’s true.)  We talk about how expensive kids are.  How they sap our energy (My days of not being a coffee drinker are numbered, I’m afraid.)  How we want to pull out our hair by dinner time.  (Okay, by lunch time.)

But now I’ve been noticing the other side: the great thing about children is their extreme joy at life’s minimalities.  It really takes so little for them to be happy.

Snow.  A pile of leaves.  A water bottle.  A rock.  A hill. Music.  A little sand.  An imaginary friend.  (Yes. Even full of happiness by something that’s not even there, not even real.)


Am I so easily charmed, so quickly brimming with laughter, so swiftly fascinated with life?  (The answer is no.)  Why not?  (Besides the fact that if I had an imaginary friend at this point, most people would consider me crazy.) Can I get back to that state, where everything is new and amazing?

Probably not.  (That state comes with tantrums, remember.)  But I can appreciate that about my kids and try a little to see the world through eyes like theirs.  To be satisfied with love, sleep, food, attention, and sometimes maybe just a leaf.