Monday, May 23, 2011

Gardening With a 4-year-old: Dream vs. Reality

When we started house shopping last spring, I wasn’t looking for a gigantic yard—a.k.a. a large black hole for time, energy, and extra dollars. Been there, done that. But somehow, a big yard found us. Slowly but surely, the raised beds and mature trees began to cast a spell on me. It WAS sort of idyllic. If you squinted, it was almost lush (courtesy of moss and dandelions, but still). Before long, gardening dreams started to blossom.

I was especially excited about sharing the experience with my preschooler. She’ll learn about science! The miracle of life! She’ll collect colorful, wholesome farm-to-fork memories and delight her future children with tales of picking homegrown beans in the backyard. Perhaps she might even be persuaded to eat a bean or two (since she watched them grow and all).

Fast forward to this spring, when our planting-day experience went something like this:

Me: “OK, here are the rows, now let’s put the seeds in one by one…wait, not the entire packet…wait, which packet was that? WHICH one? Honey, don’t tear the packet, we need to save it. PLEASE, don’t get it wet! Wait, maybe I can still get them out, hold on.”

Her: “Look, mommy, I’m raking them!”

Me: “Time to go inside.”

And that was it. Now, to show for my trouble, I have a bunch of brave little seedlings growing in a mangled clump. If they make it, I might get to find out what they are.

Plus, she likes to pluck any blooms that open “to make food for the plants.” Nice sentiment, but the result is a barren garden with dead, wilting flowers dotting the dirt.

I still have gardening dreams. They’re just on hold until she’s 6 or 7.

The seedlings. I think they're carrots, but honestly, who really knows. And why is my garden filled with rocks?

At least I have lilacs to make me happy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eighteen months of Mia

Popcorn and pigtails--toddlerhood is fun!

Where have the last 18 months gone? Miss Mia is a year-and-a-half old today. And I’m counting my blessings—we’re tired, we’re busy, life with two kids is incredibly demanding, but we know we lucked out with this little one.

(OK, I hate it when people say “Not to brag,” and then proceed to do exactly that. So, full disclosure: bragging ahead. Turn away if you must.)

Most families I know with two kids get thrown for a loop by their wild and crazy secondborn. Our experience was flipped—we had the spirited kid first. Mia is her perfect counterpart: sweet, laid-back, and just enough of a spitfire to hold her own. She can entertain herself for hours—HOURS—with a stack of books and a few dolls. Her rendition of “twinkle twinkle little star” could melt the most stalwart soul. Her baby-chatter is enchanting, and we’re hearing more and more “real” words every day. Her latest: SHOE, BOOK, BIANCA, THAT, KITTY, and THANK YOU.

She loves me, but daddy is her knight in shining armor. Daddy could be miles away at work, and she’ll still wail dadddddyyyyy, dadddddyyyyy like a damsel in distress every time someone (me) doesn’t do her bidding.

The word strangers use to describe her is calm: she’s so calm! So content! (They might use different words if they caught a glimpse of her protesting her carseat or a diaper change, but whatevs.) Most of the time, she IS calm and content. She’s just a happy little turkey who loves the world she lives in. And the world loves her right back.

Mia, every day, I’m so grateful that I get to be your mom. You’ve made the last 18 months better than I could have imagined. I hope you never stop surprising me. As much as I’d like to keep you this age forever, I’m willing to let you grow up, only because I cannot WAIT to see what’s next. Love you with all my heart, Mom

STATS: Next to our stringbean Bianca, Mia looks like an adorable little butterball to me. But those chubby cheek and thighs don’t add up to much: she’s only 20.5 lbs. At least she’s finally out of the 3rd percentile—she cracked the 5th! Whoo hoo!

Can this wait, Mom? I'm working!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mother's Day and the world's tiniest squatter

Sorry, News Tribune. This tube is taken.

This year, I’ll be sharing Mother’s Day with another mama who has recently taken up residence on our property. You might call her a squatter, although I think she’s far too cute for that title. She’s a teacup-sized bird who built a nest and laid itty-bitty eggs inside the newspaper tube not 12 inches from our front door.

I suppose we owe her presence to our extremely soggy spring weather—a couple of months ago, I stashed my soaked umbrella in the tube after a downpour. I guess the folds of fabric made the space cozier, because right away, a birdie couple got busy building a sweet little nest on top of the damp umbrella. They worked quickly, layering bits of branches, pine needles, and dryer lint. And I bought a new umbrella.

I’ve been watching this process unfold with interest and a healthy dose of skepticism. Why on earth would any sane mom choose to build her nest right next to our bustling front door that gets slammed 100 times a day (and right at 4 year old eye level, no less)? She might as well have picked Grand Central Station. I thought for sure she’d recognize her mistake and trade the tube for a quieter, more peaceful location, out of the reach of screeching toddlers and inquisitive little fingers.

But sure enough, she actually laid eggs and is roosting in there as I type. As most people know, I’m not really a bird person. At all. (Remember our woodpecker drama from earlier this spring?) Despite this, I can’t help but feel a kinship with this tiny mama who chose to build her nest so close to mine. I’d like to share some parenting wisdom (“You think sitting on eggs is tough? JUST WAIT!”) but I’ll settle for watching her little family from a safe distance. And maybe offering her some extra dryer lint.

She's so tiny and really hunkered down, making her almost impossible to see. And I don't want to shove a camera in her face. But I did my best to get a picture without freaking her out.

Happy Mother’s Day to mamas everywhere, big and small! We all deserve it.