Lauren and I are both ambivalent about Pinterest, though I have had some successes with recipes and art projects. I decided to use the concept of the fairy garden without following the instructions too literally. The girls LOVED this project. Continue reading
Tag Archives: gardening
1. I got an email from the faceless bureaucracy of my institution that I’ve been listed for “termination” from my TAship starting May 11, so unless I email them and change everything, my university life will end in six weeks. And obviously I knew that would happen, but seeing it in black and white felt strange and sad. I feel like my departure is an unremarkable event: my students don’t understand that I won’t be back in their program next year, that a new teacher will teach their future teammates and friends. Every summer means a shuffle in the TA offices, so who knows if my officemates will realize or care that I’m gone (except R, my office BFF. Shout out!). The regular rhythm of school life means people won’t notice I’m gone until next year. But for me? This is it, and it’s big, and it’s scary. Lately, I feel like I’m in the middle of a dream and I’m about to wake up to some brutal reality.
2. That would be true if I had a chance to dream, but sleep has been a precious commodity in our house. My kids have never been good sleepers. They both nightwake long past whatever fool age bullshit websites say they should, no matter what advice book we follow, and my 2yo is an early bird (which is why MN is often updated at 6 am). After our 2nd was born, we did a divide and conquer thing that has been mostly good, but lately we’ve had a hankering to sleep in the same bed at the same time, so we launched a big “YAY LET’S SLEEP IN YOUR BIG GIRL BUNKBEDS PLEASE GOD” campaign and it went fine until it did not go fine and the past four nights I can’t sleep away from them because I’m not used to it, and I can’t sleep with them. I end up on the bottom bunk with my 2yo, then my 4yo starts crying and leaves to find her Dad. So we essentially end up in the same configuration we have been all along, in different, smaller, shittier beds. Please don’t offer me advice or admonish me for our choices: I am so beyond the capacity for polite disagreement right now. Truth is, I don’t want to sleep with anyone, ever again. I want to mummify my torso in duct tape and sleep in a dark, quiet place for 8 hours. PAST 5:30 AM.
3. Typically, March is a blustery and sunny month in Iowa, but it’s been downright summery for weeks now. My yard is full of daffodils in bloom, and the hydrangeas and rose bushes are greening up. Last night, the girls and I walked around collecting magnolia petals, pinecones, and rocks. I went to my local garden center and bought packets of seeds to try and fill in the weird gaps and, ya know, parts of the yard I don’t want to mow, but the guy there warned be that this is just a phase, it’s bound to turn bad, it’s bound to snow and snap and frost and nip all this new life in its bud. So instead of enjoying this, I keep wondering, when will it change? When will it go bad?
4. This strange sense of paranoia reached new heights when my in-laws emailed us to ask if it would be all right if they arranged a place for us in the country in case of the apocalypse. They watched this History Channel documentary that connects what we feel are legitimate concerns about fossil fuels, industrial agriculture, and general American idiocy to other, less legitimate, more insane worries about artificial intelligence and terrorism. Basically, the film posits that very soon, we’ll run out of gas, our water supply will become so overpolluted that we can’t drink, and people will still be wandering around wanting their grande lattes, and then everyone’s HOUSE ROBOTS will take over the planet at the same time some terrorist decides to finally shoot off that nuclear warhead he’s been sitting on all these years. Just like the collapse of the Roman Empire.
In the most respectful way, they would like to “dialogue” with us about this because they have been, and are, “concerned about the world situation.” I just don’t know how to respond to this. These are people who prepared for Y2K by purchasing gold coins, a flourmill, and a generator. They’re serious. They mean it. And my first reaction is: absolutely not. Predictions of the world’s demise have been wrong 100% of the time. Is the country really the best place to be at the end of the world? It sounds lonely and hungry to me. Stay in town? Forage, loot, and squat? Plus by most peoples’ definition, we already live in the country, in a farm town of less than 2k. Is this country spot in Oklahoma (where they live) or Iowa (where we live)? It’s such an outrageously expensive way to show their love. Couldn’t they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on the girls’ education? Investing in a hope for their future, rather than the fear of Armageddon?
Yet I hesitate to reject it outright. I’m feeling rather desperate for a lifeline myself, and if you consider the way we’re squirreling away money “just in case” I don’t get work, lying awake at night doing mental math, and eating PB&Js at the office instead of Bread Garden or Thai Spice, our outlook is just as bleak, perhaps on an exponentially smaller scale. How can we refuse their offer to survive the end of the world, especially when it feels like everything that’s going right, right now, feels like it’s about to go terribly wrong (except sleep which is already at end-times misery levels)? At least they seem to care whether or not we’re sticking around.
If you’re interested in radical, beautiful plans for the apocalypse, consider backing The People’s Apocalypse, an anthology project by Ariel Gore and Jenny Forrester. It shall be superfun and there are rewards for every level of contribution.
I’m thinking about boundaries lately.
We spent an amazing afternoon at the Naples Botanical Garden when we were on vacation last week. If you find yourself in SW Florida I definitely recommend it: very walkable (and stroller friendly), lots of shaded chairs and benches, beautiful plants (of course), and a thoughtfully-designed children’s garden.
Here’s why my girls loved the Children’s Garden: water feature to splash around in, playhouse with brooms, gated gardens with low fences and gates they could open themselves, watering cans you could fill at a hand pump, tree house with bouncy bridges and a balcony you could climb up to, small hidden garden with plants growing in funny containers like cowboy boots and toilets and purses.
Here’s why I loved the Children’s Garden: excellent placement of benches and swings, looped paths so even when you wander away you pop right back out where you started, and clear sightlines.
Margeaux and I spent a long time swinging and enjoying the breeze while the girls filled watering cans, opened and closed gates, swept the playhouse, smelled herbs and flowers, made friends with another little girl, and talked nonstop about bugs and sunshine and vacation and whatever else 3 and 5 year old girls talk about.
It’s this amazing moment in my parenting life, when they are beginning to be independent in so many ways. Amazing, and lovely, and scary. Because I worry about what happens when they’re out of sight, out of reach. Will they fall in the water? Will they get stuck in the tree house? Will they encounter a scary stranger who offers them candy and lures them to a van? I know, rationally, that like every living thing they need space to grow in. The roots start to ball up in the pot and the leaves twist back on their stems as they struggle for the sunlight. I don’t want to be the dreaded helicopter parent, filling their watering can and carrying it for them and telling them where to pour. Part of the magic of this moment is watching them realize that they are capable of so many things.
But they are still so little, and the world is so big, and so it is such a feeling of pleasurable relief to walk into a space that feels as though its creators understood exactly what I’m always hoping for: a comfy seat to watch them grow and explore and reach and sometimes fall or spill or figure it out on their own or with a little help from a sister or a new friend. A clear view of the world as they move through it.
I’m longing for this clarity in the rest of my parenting life. What school do we choose for kindergarten, how many hours a week can I work without going insane or becoming a terrible mother, will they fall out of a bunk bed, will the baby choke on a Polly Pocket shoe, how do I know where this path goes? There’s no design to my actual life and sometimes that lack of design doesn’t feel wide open and wonderful it just feels terrifying: how the fuck do we get down from this tree house? Boundaries, expressed clearly and thoughtfully, offer a safe place to put down roots AND plenty of room to grow. I know how to build that garden. I am still trying to figure out how to build that life.
When my oldest daughter was a baby I worked for a local non profit organization that built school gardens and taught kids about the (literal) roots of their food. We had an opportunity to get free flowers and herbs, but the pickup was on a weekend, and since my staff was composed entirely of AmeriCorps VISTAS who were already overworked and underpaid, I decided to just go get the plants myself, with the baby. How hard could it be?
I had hoped it would be sort of a small affair, leave the baby in the car, toss a couple pots in the back, say a gracious thank you and be on my way. It was not a small affair. Potted plants filled a medium-sized parking lot. A swarm of volunteers from organizations all over town waited for the go ahead to begin loading flats and carts. Dorothy showed no interest in staying her seat and drooling on the mirrors in Hello Bee, Hello Me.
The woman coordinating the event arrived in a beautifully restored 1940s era pickup. She and her children were wearing white button down shirts and over-sized sunglasses. I held Dorothy on my hip. We both looked grungy. As the event got underway, I struggled to carry the plants and the baby but managed to fill the back of my car. There were still rows and rows of beautiful basil plants left, basil I could imagine nestled under the tomatoes in the raised beds at my school gardens. I buckled Dorothy in and started piling basil in around her. I was sweaty, hair in my eyes, Dorothy was beginning to fuss, but I didn’t want to leave without saying thank you. The kind, lovely, stylish organizer was as gracious as one would expect, and in fact offers to help. Her white shirt is still spotless, though I know she’s been carrying plants. “Oh, let me just help you get those to your car and I’ll peek at the baby,” and before I can stop her, she’s swinging open the door to my backseat and peering in through the giant sunglasses. Dorothy is screaming, snot and soil crusted across her face, a basil plant in each angry fist and another hanging out of her mouth. There are no words for this moment. I shut the door, said thanks again, drove away. What can I say? My life is not styled. My shirts are not spotless. My house is too small. But the basil grew beautifully all summer.