Category Archives: Gardening

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What’s New Wednesday: Coffee, Gardening, and Underwear

Despite my best attempts, I was unable to get Annabelle to stop growing this week. She hit the official 20 month mark, and the week was peppered with many of those, “Holy cow, look at how huge that kid is!” moments, like the one where she walked in to wake Andrew from a nap and I realized she could just stand next to the bed and look at him. She didn’t have to strain or stand on her toes, or beg someone else to put her on the bed or anything. She just stood there, face to face with him and smiled, as I tried not to lose it. How did this happen!? Continue reading

Montessori Monday: Animals and Such

I’ve been promising a post on the alternatives to store bought household cleaning and personal care products, and I promise that’s coming tomorrow, but I’m excited to link up to Montessori Monday at One Hook Wonder and Living Montessori Now today.

Why am I so excited, you ask? I finally found a box I’ve been digging around trying to find for months now and you would have thought I’d discovered a coffee can full of cash. I was delighted to reunite with my animal models and finally be able to share them with Annabelle. They’re not made of natural materials, but they’re one of those exceptions I mentioned in my Montessori-Inspired Checklist for Choosing Toys. They are far more realistic than anything made of wood or other materials I have seen, so they’re an important part of my personal stash of learning materials.

One new basket on Annabelle’s shelf contains a few of the control cards from the Juvenile Animals Nomenclature (3 Part) Cards that Montessori Services sells and models for the corresponding animals. Annabelle is a bit young for three part cards at the moment, but she loves to carry photos of various things around the house, so I had ordered these for her and planned to put out the picture cards only. She enjoyed them, but loves this matching activity with the animal models much more. She does it over and over again!

I have also put together a basket that contains just the adult male and female animals from the same families as those shown here. Annabelle loves to carry them around, pair them, and have me say their names. Of course both baskets can be combined to make Farmyard Animal Families – one of my favorite zoology activities, just because I love to see all of the animals grouped together. At Annabelle’s age, this is simple exploration and matching, but older children can gradually learn the names of the different family members through three period lessons, if they’re interested, and many extensions can come from that.

I have many other fun ideas for these and our other animal models in the near future. The possibilities are endless, hence my adoration for them!

In other news, right after I wrote about how I simply integrate Practical Life exercises and don’t place EPL activities on Annabelle’s shelf, I ended up giving her a bit of out of context, but still enjoyable practical life to do. Follow the child, right? Sometimes what I’m working on in the kitchen just does not appeal to her and she’d like something of her own to work on. Here she is spooning star-shaped ice cubes and loving it. She practiced a bit with tongs as well, but is still finding them to be a bit of a challenge.

I have also finally decided to grow some food. Better late than never, I say. Annabelle really loved helping me plant seeds and has enjoyed going out to check the plants and give them water each day. She has also been working with me as I try to prepare a space for our little seedlings that are ready to transplant. I have been really surprised by how much that interests her!

It is quite tempting, however, for her to grab handfuls of soil from fledgling plants, or just pull out tiny seedlings. There is also one pot in particular that is the perfect height for her, and she can’t help but step in it. My thinking is that this is simply age-appropriate exploration and is a natural part of her becoming acquainted with gardening. That said, I’m open to suggestions from those of you with extensive toddler gardening experience.

On the weekend, Annabelle and I went to check out the Micronesian Cultural Fair for awhile and she loved it. I was surprised by how long she was content to watch some of the traditional Chamorro dancers. It captivated her, and yet again I was pleasantly surprised by what a great date she was. We met up with friends, but I know I would have enjoyed myself quite well if it had been just the two of us instead.

And those are the Montessori-related highlights of our week of living and learning together. What did you and your family learn this week, and how did you go about learning it? I would really love to hear tidbits from you, too!

Five Children’s Books to Read in the Garden

Yeah, okay, so we don’t even have a proper garden right now, but don’t our “weeds” make a lovely backdrop? I was digging through my children’s book collection several weeks ago to find a story I planned to adapt and share with our friends at Garden Day, when I happened upon these gems once again. What with all the buzz around the mom-blogosphere about gardens this time of year, I thought I would share.
Just a quick note: I’m going to link to these in the interest of sharing a love of great books, but I don’t use any affiliate links, so I don’t benefit directly if you check one of these out. I’m just sharing my love of literature!

1. You are all familiar already, I’m sure, with The Giving Tree by Shell Silverstein, but it never hurts to be reminded of a much-loved book. There was an interesting discussion on this title over at Mom Grooves recently, but personally I still see it as a valuable story that hopefully inspires responsible stewardship of nature.
2. Inch by Inch: The Garden Song by David Mallet actually gives me chills sometimes. I dream of singing this song with Annabelle while we plant seeds together and soak up the sunshine in our own little garden. It’s magical, really.
3. The Everything Seed: A Story of Beginnings by Unitarian Universalist minister Carole Martignacco isn’t really related to gardening in the sense of growing and tending plants, but it draws a beautiful connection between us and all life on earth. It is perhaps my favorite children’s book, and so I must share just a tiny bit of its beauty with you:

“…new people are born every day with the spark of that first light still alive and burning deep inside… waiting… like the Everything Seed to shine in ways that are yet to be known.”

4. Wangari’s Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter is the true story of Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, who fought against deforestation in her native Kenya. Wangari empowers an army of impoverished women to take part in the Green Belt movement, planting seedlings together with them “until there are over 30 million trees where there were none.”
5. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, is a story of a young girl who wanted to “do something to make the world more beautiful,” “but she did not know what that could be.” The young girl grows into an old woman who finally discovers a way to create beauty in her surroundings: she plants seeds and from them beautiful flowers grow. 
Does this time of year inspire you to re-read certain stories? Do you have a favorite children’s book about gardening? What is your favorite children’s book anyway? I’m dying to know!

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.