May 30, 2016

Community Garden Love

Smith has this little stuffed fox, 'super foxy' or just 'foxy' for short. He carries him everywhere and also sometimes accidentally leaves him behind to spend the night abandoned in a playground or grocery store... still we somehow always track him down (so far, knock on wood!). I think about how many toys and stuffed creatures I have carefully chosen for the kids over the years, some hand made with loving care and hefty price tags, and yet it's this synthetic Ikea fox, thoughtlessly added to the cart in an effort to buy me some extra shopping time, that has won his heart. I never would I have guessed that we would be retracing our steps and making late night phone calls to track down that $2 mass produced toy, but Smith loves him, and so now we all do too. It's funny the things that wind up being critical to finding personal joy.

Our community garden is a bit like that fox for me. Six years ago, when we first scored our plot, it was just a way to bide my time and get my fingers dirty until I could move back to the country. I never imagined that 400 square feet of sun soaked earth would play such a big role in our family's warm weather rituals. James was initially ambivalent about our plot, and these days he is often the one dragging us all there, weeding and watering at the end of long work days. The kids have grown up with our garden as a major feature of their lives, and despite our move last summer, this patch of land, connected to a community and not a set of house keys, has remained a constant for them both.

When we were looking to buy a house, several friends made comments assuming we'd give up our garden, because we would want to start one in our own yard, or it would be too far away. But we actually made proximity to the garden a key factor in our buying process, and we are definitely keeping our plot! 

True, it does require more effort to pack up the kids and drive just to do a little gardening. I am sure that if I could swing open my back door and poke around, everything would be better maintained. But it is so worth the added work. It's wonderful to walk around and chat with other gardeners, sharing tips and seeds. I love that we were able to stay close to the city, and all of the culture and excitement it has to offer, choosing a small and shady lot without sacrificing sun loving veggies in the process. Best of all, our garden happens to be nestled in a nature preserve, which means our non-country-kids get to kick off their shoes, run through fields chasing butterflies, toss stones into streams, and generally experience much of the freedom my country-kid childhood afforded me. 

I love you community garden, you have given our family so much more than we can possibly return. Never outgrow us, and we promise that we'll never outgrow you.

May 23, 2016

As Told by an Only Child

I often think that being an only child, who is raising a couple of kids, is like living in a suspended state of puppy love. That idealistic giddiness that comes with the first true crush, the starry eyes that no sour reality can penetrate, we are closing in on three years of siblinghood in this family, and I still can't contain the daily swells of happy tears when I watch simple interactions between my children.

They fight, they torture each other, they defend each other, and give rough embraces that send them both crashing to the ground... it's all typical stuff, but these moments are my favorite part of each day. Even when they are driving me nuts and I lose my temper, I take comfort in knowing that they can help each other navigate my special brand of crazy.

For every set of siblings that stay thick as thieves through adulthood, there are likely many more that never get along, drift apart, or just never relate to one another. It doesn't always work out, and there are often good reasons for the distance. But being an only child, I can ignore possible future realities, and just glorify today's head-locks as character building, and embrace the squabbling as a welcome soundtrack to the 'big family' life that I always imagined.

One of my greatest hopes for my children is that they will always be there for each other, and that they will genuinely enjoy and respect one another as adults. Of course, much of that is out of my hands. Still, I do believe that parenting plays a substantive role in setting the tone for long term sibling love, and we're doing our best to lay down that sturdy foundation. Knocking on wood, and sentencing them both to a life of shared bedrooms and late night whispers. Like it or not!

This is tough to understand, but I just love it when they plot against me. I'm looking forward to their future memoirs detailing the lives of a brother and sister, raised by a sappy only-child mama.

operation rescue from Mama Smith on Vimeo.

p.s. there's obviously a lot of good that I could say about being an only child, and being raised by a single mother, and on and on. I suspect we all yearn for pieces of what we missed out on, while also honoring the beauty in what we did have. hopefully that comes through in this journal, as a whole. I know there are a ton of awesome only-children coming up in this world, without question!

May 15, 2016


warming up frozen pizza with a side of sunshine new lunch location daffodils to cure a lousy day wallpaper test run nap-time bits morning view rainy morning routine girls' lunch afternoon activities catnip and lavender barbershop and lollipop meals to beat the rain favorite jacket  new bed slumber quiet time with 'foxy' 'dusting'

I had my final evening of classes for this semester last Wednesday and, coupled with several days of our first real taste of summer weather, I am feeling almost giddy. The past month has seemed a haze of exhaustion and rain. There was so much to do, so many late nights and early mornings, sniffly noses and coughs, day after day of clouds and rain, and way too much 'screen time' and fast meals for the kids. We weren't in our typical (or preferred) spring rythm. But after some planting in the garden and a few sunny days this week, I finally feel like we are pulling it together! 

We have been slowly (well, by my standards!) working to make some changes in Smith and Roo's shared bedroom. We hung back up a few prints tonight, and it's pretty much complete. I know I shift their room constantly, and yeah it's a mild obsession... but I really think we almost have it right now! I can't wait to get a moment to take some pictures and share the progress. It's such a fun space, and truly reflects each of their personalities. There's nothing that beats a great kid's room, right?!

Another big push has been in preparing for Smith to enter kindergarten next year. It has been a substantial effort, mentally and emotionally wrapping our heads around the idea that he is old enough to even be entering a full day of real school, plus dealing with all the conflicting thoughts around public school in general, and the transition from his current Reggio Emilia based preschool. I've been attempting to get him ready for 'expectations', working on fun ways to spark his lagging interest in letters and numbers (building off his love of science and nature, as best I can). And then there's all the logistical issues and paperwork that come with pushing through an existing speech IEP (for those of you who know what that is!), switching districts... There have been a lot of late night talks with James, my mom, just to myself over all of this. We've had last minute debates on private schools, and a million second and third thoughts. But I do think we've chosen the right course. And if not? Well then we will just make a change. I have to keep reminding myself that nothing is irreversible. And of how fortunate we are to live in an area with impeccable public schools, something I certainly don't take for granted.

So that is some of what we have been up to since my last visit here. Seeds have been thrown in the gound, house projects have been completed, forms have been filled out, screens have been temporarily banished (well, for the kids anyway), and I have that super optimistic high that comes with the promise of every new season. There may be a frost warning tonight, but I've committed to sandals and packed away my winter coats. It's time!

*I always feel slightly sheepish to return to this space with a collection of week-old snapshots from my phone. There just hasn't been the time, or interest, to pick up my camera in the last month, and I find that the more regularly I get on here, the more I want to keep it up... so I'm just going with it!