Category Archives: Community

Garden Day

Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Annabelle and me relaxing at Garden Day
Gardening is one of several things that I place in a category labeled: not my strong suit. Several weeks after my daughter was born, when the gardenias I had planted in pots outside our front door finally withered away to the point of no return, I joked that I could only nurture one life at a time. It is important to me that my daughter have an understanding of where her food comes from, so I do intend to hone my gardening skills. Because I knew we would only live on this island for two years, and because we wanted the flexibility to travel without having to worry about caring for plants, I chose not to start here. In hindsight I wish I had, but that is something we’ll jump into just as soon as we get settled in our next home.
One of the things I love about having a circle of support comprised of many mothers with a variety of strengths is that I can generally count on my community to enrich our lives in ways I myself could not, or simply don’t have time to. (Hopefully I’m able to enrich the lives of others in my own special way, too!) During our short stint as islanders, my daughter has developed a connection to the land and a connection to her food thanks to the hard work of some amazing women. When my daughter was six months old, I was introduced to a group of families who have tremendously affected my life and to whom I will always be grateful. These families started something called Garden Day and it quickly became the top priority on my rather short list of events to attend.
Garden Day could be called a play group or a moms’ group, but it is so much more than that. It is a community of families who get together each Tuesday as well as for various special occasions and spend time outdoors, in the garden. There are a few different families who host garden day, including one that has turned the once unkempt and overgrown grounds of an apartment complex into an inviting space where families now gather and a magical garden grows in the unlikeliest of places. Each space is as unique as the family that cares for it.
On Garden Day, families get together and catch up with one another while the children play. There is much running about and chatting and enjoyment of the fresh air. After awhile, the children are gathered on a blanket either for a Waldorf-style story time or occasionally even for some yoga, interwoven with a story. All are led by one of the beautiful, talented mothers of Garden Day. Oftentimes the story is centered around what will take place in the garden and afterward, if there is work to be done, everyone is invited to help. If there is something to harvest, some will likely be enjoyed on the spot. Occasionally there is an abundance of a particular crop and the family who is sharing their garden invites everyone to take some home. Worms are found, wheelbarrows are pushed, weeds are pulled, and fingernails are dirtied. Being the youngest, Annabelle is generally just a spectator and I’m busy keeping an eye on her, but we’re honored to be a part of the goings on anyway. After the work is finished, everyone washes their hands and gathers to sing the blessing:

Earth who gives to us this food
Sun who makes it ripe and good
Dear earth, dear sun, by you we live
Our loving thanks to you we give.”

Annabelle at the Garden Day May Day
Each family brings a vegetarian dish to share and all enjoy dinner together. Whoever has a free hand helps to clean up, and the children are taken home to their beds, having built on their connection not only to the earth and the food it provides, but also to a caring community. It’s a thing of beauty.
I have so enjoyed Garden Day and can hardly imagine Annabelle’s childhood without it. I know we will leave before long, and will have to say goodbye to these dear friends, but I am determined to continue to foster in my child a love, respect, and understanding with regard to the earth and the way it sustains us. If I can’t find one, I may just have to start my own “Garden Day” in our next city.

My heart is full of gratitude for the inspiring community we’ve found here and all that it has taught us.

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama
Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
  • Get Out!Momma Jorje gives reasons she doesn’t think she gets outside enough and asks for your suggestions on making time for the outdoors.
  • How Does Your Garden Grow?The ArtsyMama shares her love of nature photography.
  • We Go Outside — Amy at Peace 4 Parents describes her family’s simple, experiential approach to encouraging appreciation of nature.
  • My Not-So-Green Thumb — Wolfmother confesses to her lack of gardening skills but expresses hope in learning alongside her son at Fabulous Mama Chronicles.
  • Enjoying Outdoors — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine describes how her children enjoy the nature.
  • Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener — For the rare little ones who don’t like to get their hands dirty, Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers tips for encouraging an early love of dirt (despite the mess).
  • Connecting to NatureMamapoekie shares how growing your own vegetable patch connects your child to nature and urges them to not take anything for granted.
  • The Farmer’s Market Classroom — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how the Farmer’s Market has become her son’s classroom.
  • Seeds — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment‘s hubby Ken shares his perspective on why gardening with their kiddos is so important . . . and enjoyable!
  • Toddlers in the Garden — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares her excitement as she continues to introduce her toddler and new baby to the joys of fresh veggies, straight from the garden.
  • Nature’s Weave — MJ at Wander Wonder Discover explains how nature weaves its way into our lives naturally, magnetically, experientially, and spiritually.
  • Becoming Green — Kristina at Hey Red celebrates and nurtures her daughter’s blossoming love of the outdoors.
  • Little Gardener — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis looks forward to introducing her baby girl to gardening and exploring home grown foods for the first time.
  • Cultivating Abundance — You can never be poor if you have a garden! Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on what she cultivates in her garden . . . and finds it’s a lot more than seeds!
  • Growing in the Outdoors: Plants and People — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reflects on how she is growing while teaching her daughter to appreciate nature, the origins of food, and the many benefits of eating home-grown.
  • How Not to Grow — Anna at Wild Parenting discusses why growing vegetables fills her with fear.
  • Growing in the Outdoors — Lily at Witch Mom Blog talks about how connecting to the natural world is a matter of theology for her family and the ways that they do it.
  • A Garden Made of Straw — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares tips on making a straw bale garden.
  • The Tradition of Gardening — Carrie at Love Notes Mama reflects on the gifts that come with the tradition of gardening.
  • Gardening Smells Like Home — Bethy at Bounce Me to the Moon hopes that her son will associate home grown food and lovely flowers with home.
  • The New Normal — Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how she hopes that growing vegetables in a big city will become totally normal for her children’s generation.
  • Outside, With You — Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son, a snapshot of a moment in the garden together.
  • Farmer Boy — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares how her son Joshua helps to grow and raise their family’s food.
  • Growing Kids in the Garden — Lisa at Granola Catholic shares easy ways to get your kids involved in the garden.
  • Growing Food Without a Garden — Don’t have a garden? “You can still grow food!” says Mrs Green of Little Green Blog. Whatever the size of your plot, she shows you how.
  • Growing Things — Liz at Garden Variety Mama shares her reasons for gardening with her kids, even though she has no idea what she’s doing.
  • MomentsUK Mummy Blogger explains how the great outdoors provides a backdrop for her family to reconnect.
  • Condo Kid Turns Composter and Plastic Police — Jessica from Cloth Diapering Mama has discovered that her young son is a true earth lover despite living in a condo with no land to call their own.
  • Gardening with Baby — Sheila at A Gift Universe shows us how her garden and her son are growing.
  • Why to Choose Your Local Farmer’s MarketNaturally Nena shares why she believes it’s important to teach our children the value of local farmers.
  • Unfolding into Nature — At Crunchy-Chewy Mama, Jessica Claire shares her desire to cultivate a reverence for nature through gardening, buying local food, and just looking out the window.
  • Urban Gardening With Kids — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares her strategies for city gardening with little helpers — without a yard but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.
  • Mama Doesn’t Garden — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life is glad her husband is there to instill the joys of gardening in their children, while all she has to do is sit back and eat homegrown tomato sandwiches.
  • Why We Make this Organic Garden Grow — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her reasons for gardening with her three small children.
  • 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama believes it’s never too early to foster a love of the natural world in your little one.
  • April Showers Bring May PRODUCE — Erika at NaMammaSte discusses her plans for raising a little gardener.
  • Growing Outside — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers how to get her kids outside after weeks of spring rain.
  • Eating Healthier — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she learns to eat healthier and encourages her children to do the same.
  • The Beauty of Earth and Heavens — Inspired by Charlotte Mason, Erica at ChildOrganics discovers nature in her own front yard.
  • Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro talks about the challenges of gardening with two small children.
  • Creating a Living Playhouse: Our Bean Teepee! — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares how her family creates a living playhouse “bean teepee” and includes tips of how to involve kids in gardening projects.
  • Grooming a Tree-Hugger: Introducing the Outdoors — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her planned strategies for making this spring and summer memorable and productive for her pre-toddler in the Outdoors.
  • Sowing Seeds of Life and Love — Suzannah at ShoutLaughLove celebrates the simple joys of baby chicks, community gardening, and a semi-charmed country life.
  • Experiencing Nature and Growing Plants Outdoors Without a Garden — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares some of her favorite ways her family discovered to fully experience nature wherever they lived.
  • Garden Day — Melissa at The New Mommy Files is thankful to be part of community of families, some of whom can even garden!
  • Teaching Garden Ettiquette to the Locusts — Tashmica from Mother Flippin’ (guest posting at Natural Parents Network) allows her children to ravage her garden every year in the hopes of teaching them a greater lesson about how to treat the world.
  • Why I Play with Worms. — Megan of Megadoula, Megamom and Megatired shares why growing a garden and raising her children go hand in hand.

Kitchens, Gardens and Connections

Soaking up some rays at a party hosted by
Garden Day friends
I really never pictured myself as a play group sort of mama, although I don’t know what I did picture myself as. The whole adjustment from crazy-lady-holding-down-several-jobs-at-a-time-and-embracing-happy-hour-when-time-allowed, to stay-at-home mom really changed things, however, and I have struggled with striking a balance that allows me to fill our days with activities that are both meaningful and productive. All at once, it seems to have happened. We have community, and we have at least an idea for a flow of life around the house. I’ll admit that the community bit fell into place first, and the rest of our life is still a bit disorderly, but I can see that the balance is possible, and we’ll get at least sort of close eventually.
The first thing I discovered was a lovely, incredible group of families who have created the closest thing to a utopia I’ve discovered this side of my favorite little Montessori school. This thing is caled Garden Day, and it happens once a week when a group of lovely moms and their children get together in a 
Friends at our weekly play group
backyard garden space. The children do the sorts of things that all children should, like climb on top of chicken coops and get dirt all over themselves until one of the incredibly talented women in the group calls them together for a story. The evening ends with a pot luck style vegetarian meal. Sometimes gardening happens, and sometimes it doesn’t, but there is always community, and I feel extremely honored to be a part of it. If I did nothing all week except for this, I think I would still be happy.
The very same week that I was introduced to Garden Day, a now dear friend, who was also in search of community, and I decided to start a mom’s group. We invited a handful of mothers we knew, who invited some mothers they knew, and so our circle grew. We now get together once a week and chat and laugh while our children play. I look forward to it all week long and am so thankful for the women involved and their children.
Veggies, chopped in the company of friends
Shortly after Christmas, I got an idea in my head: inspired by the idea behind “Dream Dinners,” I thought how nice it would be to dream up meals of our own and get together with friends once a week to prepare a dish or two. As it turns out, I’m not the only person who thought this way – I now have a great group of women getting together once a week to share recipes and try out new ideas in the kitchen. Our children happily play while we chat, chop, stir, and taste. It has been such fun so far!

I guess I am a play group mom after all, and so far that’s working for me. I gain so much from being part of a community, that the time outside the house really doesn’t make it any harder to keep up with things. Instead of getting stuck in the monotony of being at home, I appreciate our quiet days around the house and take care to make the most of them. I find myself happier and more motivated, and I think Annabelle enjoys it all, too. While it can still be hard to get things done around the house because Annabelle often comes to me, wanting to be held (not that I mind at all!) – she hardly notices I’m there when we’re at Garden Day, play group, or cooking day. She is so busy exploring and watching the other children, that my touch is not needed. Being a play group mama is not so bad after all!
In addition to my real life community, I have learned so much and formed some important connections in the virtual world, thanks to the Natural Parents Network and blogging in general. Some days, all a mama really needs is to know she’s not alone.

Sunday Quote: “Mamasté”

Thanks to Mama Mulder of Our Life With the Littles, I discovered a lovely article about Mothers’ Circles over at Rhythm of the Home today. The concept is beautiful, but what really struck me is the same term that Mama Mulder says stuck with her. In describing the gatherings that her circle of mothers hold, the author says:

We also close [each circle] by saying Mamasté – the mother in me recognizes and honors the mother in you.

That’s really all that any of us needs as a mother, isn’t it? To know that we are fully recognized, honored, and by extension, supported in our role? It’s so easy to find things that divide us, and in our passion to get hung up on the importance of simple lifestyle choices, but simply by virtue of being mothers, we have at least one thing in common with every other mother who has ever lived.

This brought to mind something that the children often say at group time in the Montessori school where I was fortunate enough to work some years ago, called “Gandhi’s Blessing.” 

“I offer you peace.
I offer you love.
I offer you friendship.

I hear your cries.
I see your beauty.
I feel your pain.

My wisdom comes from Spirit within.
I honor that spirit in you.
Let us work together for peace.”

What if instead of offering unwanted advice, we offer one another friendship? What if instead of offering judgment, we offer love? Maybe this is one of the best ways that we can model compassion for our children: by seeing the beauty in other women, and honoring the mother in them.

I know that I am extremely grateful to the many mothers in my life, who have honored me and respected my choices, even when they were not the same choices they would have made. I am deeply indebted to them for supporting and empowering me through the ups and downs of new motherhood.
Photo Credit: Lauren Ferrari