Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mama Bean is KinderGARDENing (9)

This little Bean likes to help us water. It's his new favourite game. We're still working on getting the water onto plants, instead of the sides of the box, the dirt/mulch, or the front of his pants. But it's progress. And 'helpful' :) Whatever keeps him smiling while we're out in the yard is something I am happy to do.
I sort of suck at thinning plants. I just hate the thought of taking something living out of the ground, that grew from a seed I purposefully put there for it to grow. I know it's good for the plants and will improve things overall, but sometimes the gardening big picture is just too big and I get caught up on the little seedlings I'm murdering. On the other hand, thinned lettuce is so darn tasty! I call this picture "Still Life of Gardening with Toddlers"
We thinned the lettuce in the morning, partly because, as good smart gardeners (ha!) we know that's when the lettuce is full of water and nice and sweet. And partly because that's when Bean wakes up and we (he) hit(s) the ground running. And running. Here's the dew beading on my (also thinned) cabbage. I will need to start thinking how I want to protect these guys from the moths.
There's just something about peonies that says 'LUSH' isn't there? I'm so glad the previous owner of our home loved peonies as much as I do. The lighter pink variety used to be even whiter, but this year's blooms are significantly streaked with bright magenta. Do peonies blend this way (like roses)?
This is the edge of where we put down the sidewalk blocks for our makeshift BBQ pad. The compost that used to live here has offered up some volunteers - they look like cucumbers, right? Or some sort of cucurbit, cucumber seems the most likely. We're gonna leave them to grow up and around the rhubarb as best they can and see what fruit they provide :) We have another volunteer bean plant growing out of the compost pile where they were moved to, also. I'm increasingly aware how vegetable gardening does best with a bit of flexibility, because you never know what's going to pop up. And I'm fully aware I couldn't/wouldn't have had that flexibility our first year, because I wouldn't have known the difference between a cucumber sprout and a weed. So it's kind of gratifying to see this stuff happen and feel all smart-stylez because I like know a little something (ha!)
This is Papa Bean, holding Sprout in my sling, while Bean played in the beach part of his playground. Not strictly speaking a gardening picture, but I wanted to point out a) how great he looks with that sling on and b) how much I appreciate growing a life with him, in our garden and otherwise. We recently celebrated 10 years of being together (i.e. from when we started dating) and it was Father's Day a few weeks back, and it all got me thinking how thankful I am for him, and all the hard work he does, again, in our garden and otherwise.

We're meandering around the prairies, and it's killing me to be away from the garden, just as everything was starting to sprout. I hope there's enough rain to sustain things, because I didn't arrange for anyone to water our plants, aie. Though, it is kind of fun to wander off for a bit, because it's such a surprise how things burst to life (weeds included /sigh) When you're out in there (several times, chasing a Bean) every day, the changes are more subtle to catch, but it's blatantly obvious after 3 or 4 days how much progress has been made. It's pretty humbling, too, realizing how little I actually have to do with it - the plants are just following the code, doing their thang, being all green and grow-y. I like it. Hope you do, too. Pop by Kim's to check out the other KinderGARDENing action - everyone's showing off the pics their kinders took in their gardens, it's quite impressive!
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Mama Bean has an anger problem

Ever since Sprout's birth, I have found myself irrationally angered by almost anything, and it's really starting to get me down. I try to tell myself that I am hiding it well, and keeping it from affecting the people around me, especially the kids. But I know it's not working. I know I'm taking it out on Papa Bean most of all.

I am brittle and defensive, seeing judgment in any little thing that's said. Or even in what's not said. Especially in what's not said. I read condemnation into innocent actions. I am convinced I am being deemed lacking. It's feeding into my naturally isolationist tendencies.

I have felt like this before. For example, during:
  • my entire adolescence
  • the months leading up to my deepest depressive episode
  • a few days in the Delirious Early Days after Bean's birth
  • a few days, occasionally, pre-menstrually
Not to turn this whole angsty mess into something "merely hormonal" but there is a theme to all those bullets.

Anyway, I've been dealing with this passively, which is to say, not at all. Just allowing myself to be buffeted and shattered by the ebb and flow of fury. My fingers typing these words is the most active thing I've done to acknowledge, yes-this-is-happening, no-it's-not-good, what-should-be-done. This isn't even a post requesting help, it's a statement of what is.

I am glad to be headed away now. Though usually I find travel stressful, and the gist of that remains true in this instance, it is overridden by the relief I anticipate in escape, if only for a few days. When I return, I hope the wide prairie sky will have mellowed me, in the way only hours watching the wind play in fields of grass can do. No doubt the proximity of the mountains will help also (quick, someone say something about big rocks being "grounding"...)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mama Bean "probably" didn't want to smack you in the face, "probably"

A friend posted "What Not to Say to a Pregnant Woman" on her fbook and it prompted some (bad) memories, which I felt like sharing.

Story number one:

"Wow, you're HUGE!"
Cue: me staring blankly, uh...
Cue: disastrous effort to make it not sound so bad (?)
"I was the same way, carried it all in my ass and thighs."
Cue: me starting blankly, uh...

Story number two:

A rambling sort of speech from an elderly woman who knew me through both pregnancies.
"Oh, well, you look pretty good this time, but I wouldn't worry about it, I mean, it's the way of life, this is what's supposed to happen, although I remember you didn't get all that big last time, you were quite small the whole time, I was surprised when I found out you were off already and had the baby, but he came early didn't he, anyway it's different every time, maybe this time you're having a girl, although I think that maybe you, well that is, it seems like probably you didn't uh lose as much in between as you were hoping to."

"Probably" I didn't lose as much as I was hoping to???

Really, lady? This is what you say to the 38-weeks pregnant woman?

It was worse than chubs icicle, srsly.

I still sort of don't know how to talk to that lady (who I see fairly regularly) without mostly just staring blankly at her and hoping to leave the room quickly.

Tell me your war stories! Let's commiserate together!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Mama Bean is KinderGARDENing (8)

This week at KinderGARDENs is the Kids and Cameras assignment. Alas, little Bean still hasn't totally grasped the camera concept, though he does like to look at the pics on the little screen at the back, and he recognizes himself now, which is pretty adorable. Anyway, I thought I'd just put in a bunch of pics of him around the yard lol. This little corner by the lilac is his favourite spot back there, I think because we leave him to dig and mess around and don't say 'No' the way we do everywhere else :) Note his little weed patch there haha. We actually didn't even know this bush was a lilac, it didn't bloom the last two summers we've lived here. Everything seems to be going bloom crazy this year, on our flowering shrubs and in the neighbourhood, it's quite beautiful. There's a grapevine on a fence we walk by often, and it is covered with teeny tiny grape clusters, it's so exciting! Not sure what confluence of factors (weather, etc.) conspired to make it that way, but I like it!

Bean does like to dig around everywhere else that we do say 'No' Here he is by our tomatoes and peppers trying to thin the cabbages. Note the handy dandy whirly-dos that label the rows, they were like 6 for a dollar or something at the garden store. We have tomato, pepper, carrot, peas, and onion ones, it's fun. In the week or so since this pic was taken, the tomatoes have like mutated into Huge Plant Beasts. They have outgrown their cages, I don't know what to do about it. I hope the flowering they're doing means they'll soon be putting more energy into fruit production than branch production. I've seen more bees this year than last, which is so encouraging. They must be happy about the extra flowering I've noticed, too.

At the other end of the home garden bed, we have our onions and lettuces coming up. I want to thin the lettuces, they're a hearting variety, so I need to give them room to actually heart. In the rest of the bed, I've added a little eggplant uh plant in the midst of our soybeans. Only four came up, but I'm thankful for those four! Edamame, here I come! One package of lettuce seeds seems to have died over the winter, so our third row of lettuces needs to be replanted with the seeds that lived. It's kind of convenient how this turned us into succession planters lol. We've always wanted to be the kind of people who use things like Forethought and Planning to do succession planting, so we don't have like forty lettuces maturing at the same time, much faster than we can eat them ourselves.

I thought Bean would be more enamored by the peonies actually, being such large blooms and so accessible to his little hands, but he seemed satisfied to (mostly) just look. A heavy rain has hastened their wilt-age. I wish peony blooms lasted all summer, they smell so beautiful. The irises are already done for the year :( I'd like to start pilfering some of the other colours of irises I see around the neighbouhood. How do y'all ask people for plants? I know most gardeners are probably pretty generous about it - well, I can't say that. I know my mom and Papa Bean's aunts have been very generous about donating plants and seeds, but I don't know about perfect strangers. But if someone walking by asked me for some of my irises, and I had some that'd be easily divided, I wouldn't hesitate to share. There are some very very dark purple ones a few houses down that I'd love, and there are several houses with all yellow ones that I've never seen before, very unique!

I planted seeds for a number of cucurbits at the big garden: white marrow, yellow zucchini, green zucchini, acorn squash, cantaloupe, and butternut squash. I planted them in circles (like the packets always suggest) instead of rows (as we've done in the past, only to have the vines run out of room) and with some of the seeds being from last year, I worried it wouldn't all come up. But I have six little circles of sprouts just like the picture coming up, so I guess the seeds remained viable. It interesting to see them all so close together, I always felt their sprouts all look the same, but they actually have (subtle) differences, and it's a nice learning experience. I realize there are waaaaaay too many sprouts in the circle pictured: I'll thin it down to about three plants. I may even transplant some of the extras, because I fear there will be bald areas in our big garden. None of the beans appear to have germinated (!!) and I have four rows of them... I don't know why I thought we needed four rows of beans, other than to fill space, but I also don't need nine plants of zucchini LOL. And I think it's easier to give away beans... everyone gets sick of donated zucchini in a few months. Have you heard people joke about Ding-and-Dashing their neighbours, leaving zucchinis on the steps? We may have to resort to that.

We also have a pumpkin plant and a giant pumpkin plant. There'll be many viney-vines out there this year! Hope we can coach them to stay in our plot and not encroach on our neighbours' plots. One part of community gardening we've really enjoyed is watching how other people do things. There are some garden superstars who have the cleanest (weed-free-est) plots with plants that look weeks and weeks ahead of anyone else's growth. There's another woman who mulches aggressively with grass clippings. All the superstars call her Crazy Grass Lady, which is sad. As you can see, we mulch with grass in our home plot, and it is wonderfully effective at keeping weeds down. But we bow to peer pressure and don't really use it at the big plot, we don't want to be called crazy, too... I do admire Crazy Grass Lady for sticking to her gardening guns and standing up for her techniques. On the other hand, she really over waters, and I don't like seeing her waste that resource.

I've conveniently labeled the last pic to show where the actual potato plants are, because it's understandably confusing when there's so many other green things around. Blasted weeds. This is a pictorial representation of how overwhelming the weeds get at the big garden. This is why grass mulching (or any kind of mulching really) would be such a good idea out there (yet still we are chickens...) I spent about an hour pulling up just the biggest thistles to get this area cleaner. I'm getting so tough, I don't even wear gloves for the thistles anymore - RAwR! See me be TOUGH Mama Bean! I'm really digging (heehee punny) the take-off of summer - spring can be such a looooong exercise in patience; waiting for them to mark out the plots, waiting for it to dry up enough to till, waiting for the guy you're paying to till to actually till it, waiting for magical days when one spouse can watch the kids while the other goes out to frantically plant things, waiting for the things you've planted to germinate, waiting to get to the store to buy more seed because you woefully underestimated how much you'd need for your giant garden, waiting waiting waiting. This is what gardening is about, right? But now that the heat is taking off and there are actual green things coming out of the ground, now is lovely and exciting and fun! There's just one month of this until the crazy superfluousity of August arrives, when the plants and weeds are huge and the heat is intense and everything sort of starts to mature way too quickly, and it's the opposite of waiting, it's everything piling up at once. I like August and everything, it's just a little stressful, in the opposite way that the waiting of May and June is stressful. So this little pause in July, when everything's just starting and revving up and is beautiful, this is nice. This might be my favourite time of summer :)

This is a long post for KinderGARDENs, sorry! Check out Kim's blog for everyone's Kids and Cameras assignments - I'm excited to go read them myself!
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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mama Bean does not play well with others

The other day, at the park, Bean started stamping his feet, probably in frustration over being told no. Again.

Life's hard for toddlers.

A nearby mom said to PB, "Ooooh, he's about to meltdown." But actually, he was doing precisely what we had asked him to do instead of melting down. For awhile, several weeks, maybe months, itfeltlikeyears, Bean had been getting progressively screamy. I think (hope...) all kids go through this screamy phase.

It's, y'know, a little wearing. They are shrill, these little humans. Shrill and impossibly loud. Sososoooooo loud.

To save our sanity, we started asking Bean to stamp his feet when he's frustrated. I like this strategy because we're still acknowledging that he is, indeed, frustrated, we're not denying it, we're only asking for a quieter expression of it. (When he screams out of excitement, we invite him to clap his hands. But really, a scream of joy is so much easier to take, and under appropriate circumstances (e.g. not in the nursery during church lol) I'll let him yell with glee as much as he likes, cuz that's just part of being a kid, right?)

Anyway, we asked him over and over. He kept screaming and screaming. We asked some more. He screamed some more. We asked and asked and asked again. He screamed and screamed and screamed again.

It really didn't look like it was going to work.

Until it did. That's when he started stamping. And we thanked him. Both to reinforce that he's doing the right thing, and also being we are genuinely thankfulpraisetheLORDhestoppedscreaming. (Mostly. He still screams sometimes. It's okay, though. We can take it now.)

Anyway, this post is not about stamping out our frustrations.

This post is about discipline in public, or maybe just parenting in public, and how I suck at it. [In a fit of internet serendipity, see also these posts by Her Bad Mother re: spanking, and Real Child Development re: letting children problem-solve. Aaaand, here's tidbit from Roots and Wings re: giving choices within boundaries.]

I like parenting at home, by myself, in private. At home, by myself, in private, I start to feel like I am getting the hang of this. I feel kind of warm and cuddly and safe and private. I feel like a bird in her nest. I am making mistakes, but at least the only people who witness them are my husband and my kids, who love me.

Starting out on this parenting adventure, I steeled myself for feeling the mompetition, feeling the mamageddon, feeling judged for my decisions, feeling beat down by the Baby Pundits, feeling unsure, and attacked in the vulnerability of that uncertainty by alpha moms much more certain than I. I don't know why I started out with this persecution complex, it was just there. It seems to be just part of the parenting culture, the rhetoric of it all.

But actually, it was much easier to deflect judge-y moms when Bean was just a baby. Because you can't really judge a baby, babies are sinless, whatever they do is pure innocence, they're just being a baby. And so any judginess, real or imagined, is only directed at me, and I got really good at not caring about that, really fast. Because we're all just doing our best here, and I don't mind deflecting whatever flack you're sending my way, because I know I'm just doing my best as well as anyone else.

It got harder after Bean turned one and started walking. With mobility, his destructive power increased many-fold, out of simple exuberance really - I'm Bean, I'm curious, I want to touch everything! RAwR! So his actions were still innocent, but now I felt a little more responsible for the real consequences of those actions. (There are few consequences to your infant, like, drooling on things. I find it hard to apologize for drool. But I do apologize for that expensive vase my toddler just licked off your coffee table, because he wondered how it would taste.) Now I felt the judgment for not being able to somehow control my 14-month-old was maybe a little justified, if not a wee bit far-fetched. But it did kick off the isolationist drive - I preferred to simply stay home, where the crap he was breaking was my crap.

Now, he's a toddler. He's expressing self-hood, he's pushing boundaries, he requires guidance, which is what I see as the ultimate goal of discipline. And it's a process, right, he's learning, he's growing, we're all learning and growing. And it's all okay to me, though we're muddling through it, though we're trying on new hats and new roles and new ideas, it's all okay, because we're watching it and doing it and living it within an arc of time. We, his parents, who watch him 24/7 and know his intimate person-ness, and love every molecule of it, can see the progress. We may get impatient, we may feel uncertain, but with a little help from God, we can see growth, in context, and it is beautiful. That stamping is beautiful.

The lady at the playground doesn't see this. She only sees a snapshot, a moment taken out of time. And she's judging my child based on this. And she's judging me.

This is why I struggle with parenting around other parents. On the one hand, I feel they're judging me based on my child's perceived misbehaviour, which can feel like maybe their judgment's a little justified, even when it's not, but I can sort of put myself in the shoes of their standards, which may differ significantly from my standards, but out of congeniality, I feel like maybe, yeah, they're right, I'm a 'bad mom.'

But on the other hand, they're judging my kid, and I can't help getting quite defensive and more than a little angry and fairly BigMamaBear about their snapshot-out-of-time judgments of my child. I'm not saying his behaviour is perfect, I'm saying his misbehaviour is part of a context, is part of his growth, and no one knows that growth like I do, can know that growth like I do, so they can't judge.

So it's like this totally crazy ambivalent defensiveness anger guilt craziness reaction that I've just spent far too many words trying to encapsulate, all to say, I don't react well around other parents. Sheesh.

We all want the angel children, I know, I want it, too. Those perfectly behaved polite angels that exist only in our fantasies and on television. But I know that I am only normal, and so are my kids, and I mostly just want to let my children be children. And I want to guide their childhood with gentleness. My heart resonates with Sarah's thoughts on attachment:
See, I want their hearts. I want their hearts so connected to mine and to my husband's that the love between us will be stronger than any thing else that comes along. So, I do these "things" not because they make me a good mother but because they help me to capture their hearts. And once I have their hearts - and I do - I can lead and direct and train them with their full trust and confidence.

For me, that means raising them to love God and love people. I can't enjoy mothering without a strong connection between our hearts. Our relationship is not adversarial in nature - they know I love them and they trust that. And vice versa.

As my tinies grow older, I marvel at their security and confidence. They are deeply attached to both of us (not just me!) and have a deep connection with each other and their extended families as well. They are deeply compassionate and intuitive, trusting our instincts and us implicitly.
What is my point? I've lost it. The internet is so full of parenting Win, I lost track... my point is... that I can't get away from feeling judged by other parents when I'm doing discipline, which I don't even like to call discipline, because I just see it as guidance, but whatever, when I'm doing guidance in public, and it makes me angry and feel brittle, because it's just a moment out of time, out of the whole time of their whole life, and I wish I didn't feel this way, because it makes me want to stay at home all the time, and wrap myself around them like a giant blanket, and protect them from everyone, which is impossible, and I've lost my point again.

My point is I love my kids, and I don't know how to reconcile my parenting style or whatever, with the static I feel off others sometimes. That's my point.

I'm probably just taking it all way too seriously. I'm definitely taking it all way too seriously. What say you? How do you stay consistent in your parenting and stand your ground when all the world's a judgmental mamageddon crazy-place?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mama Bean had a favourite bedtime story

When I was little, if a bedtime story was offered, I almost always asked to hear the story of how I was adopted. (My parents never hid my adoption, I knew for as long as I can remember.) I imagine I liked this story because I was the protagonist and it had a happy ending, just like all the other princess stories :) This is the story I remember:

Mommy and Daddy had two boys who they loved very much. For many years, they really wished they had had a little girl. One day, the Adoption People called them, and asked if they would like to come down and pick up a little girl. So, the whole family went to the G Hospital, which was a special hospital just for women having babies they couldn't keep. They went to a big room full of rows of little cribs. Each baby had a little information card with them. Mommy and Daddy and the boys found me, and instantly fell in love. I was two weeks old. They liked that I was Chinese like them, and I was so cute! My birth mom and birth dad couldn't keep me but they wanted to make sure I was raised in a good family. So, my parents and brothers took me home and I became a part of their family forever.

Of course, this story is only how I remember it, not literally what was told to me as a 4-year-old. And once I grew out of the bedtime story age, we didn't really talk about how I was adopted. The story has been distorted by time and culture and the rest of my life's history, and is clearly a fairy tale, because this is not how adoption works, then or now.

There are some things I laugh at because they are so removed from reality: who are "the Adoption People" and why would they be just calling up random families, handing out babies? The G Hospital was the primary birthing hospital in Cowtown, but how did I come to think it was only for relinquishing mothers? I'm sure my vision of the room full of bassinets is influenced by tv and movies, showing the dad going up to the window of the hospital nursery, with the row of little babies, blue cards for boys, pink cards for girls. I guess I imagined a place for adopted babies would just be a bigger room lol.

Some things are endearing in how I've remembered them: my memory places my brothers in the hospital when I was 'chosen' because all my life, my brothers have made it clear how much they love me. The first few pages of my baby album are filled with photographs of my brothers holding me, and the love in their eyes is palpable. (I am reminded of it every time I see Bean looking at Sprout.) But of course, they were not involved in the process of 'choosing' me, because the big room of bassinets is not a real place. It's just that I feel like my whole family chose me, not only my parents. It's also endearing how I remember the emphasis placed on my race; I must have felt it was important to my parents that I look like my family. When I read transracial adoptee bloggers, I realize this really did protect me from some of the more insensitive comments people make to adoptive parents. More often than not, people are very surprised to learn I'm adopted. When strangers would tell me I look like my dad or my eldest brother, I used to chuckle a little at the inside joke.

I recently heard the more detailed, more real account of how I was adopted. It made me realize how comfortable I was with my toddler-sized fairy tale - how could I be thirty years old before learning the truth of my origins? I am happy to know it, but there are some uncomfortable feelings that come with it, that I am still processing. While dealing with the gulf between childhood stories and adult truths, I want to extract the meaningful touchstones, the underlying truths upon which any fairy tale is built.

Some of those touchstones include the undercurrent of my brothers' love, my parents' effort to create a good fit for me, to achieve real inclusiveness, and of course, the fact that I was and am deeply loved. There are things that don't change, that are true, even if the fictional baby room is not. This is the process I must navigate now, and although it is work and sometimes hard, I would not go back to the fairy tale.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Mama Bean can't shake the fear from her heart

At our MOPS group a few weeks back, when discussing prayers we repeatedly send up for our children, my friend N said that, as the mother of a daughter, she especially prays for her little girl's safety. Because girls, in particular, seem so vulnerable and targeted. Because television makes us afraid.

We agreed that Criminal Minds is the worst.

That show is seriously like a sociopath home invasion four times in every episode nightmare.

I. can't. stop. watching.

Even though it gives me nightmares. Even though I don't feel safe after watching it. Even though. It's ridiculous. But I have bought in. I have fallen for the Culture of Fear, since childhood, I'm sure. I'm not even all that inclined to snap out of it.

Because just when I think I'm being unreasonable and start to talk myself back from the Ledge of Hysterics, I find out a violent repeat sex offender, who preys on little boys, who targets homes based on toys in the yards and in rooms he peeps into, who attacked these children while their families slept, this beast of a dare-I-say-human (except I choke on it) is being released into my city.

He has served his time, and now he gets to go free.

He is very likely to re-offend. It's in the media release. Although he has received treatment while in custody, he is very likely to re-offend. And even if it wasn't in the media release, we already know this. Of course he's likely to re-offend.

And I just... internally collapse.

The media release advises, "This information is provided to enable members of the public to take suitable measures to protect themselves. Any form of vigilante activity or other unreasonable conduct directed at [the offender] will not be tolerated."

What are suitable measures? Hide all evidence of children in our residence at all times and never let them outside evereveragain?? Never let my child away from physical contact from me evereveragain??? Never sleep and always keep watch and generally stand guard over their tiny bodies foreverandeveramen???? Because that's what feels suitable here, that's what feels reasonable, in the sheer terror of finding out this guy could be my newest neighbour. Seriously.

Look, I read FreeRangeKids, I know crime is down, I know violent assaults are very rare, I practice what I feel are genuinely reasonable risk-reduction strategies, I know most people are fundamentally nice and safe and wonderful and lovely.

I know it with my head.

But today? Today I do not feel it in my heart.

Talk me down from the Ledge, folks. Tell me how to feel safe again.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mama Bean is KinderGARDENing (7)

[Our version of a kiddie pool. Klassy, I know.] I took advantage of the nice weather to finally get more seeds in the ground. Awhile back, Papa Bean was able to plant our potatoes and a row of corn (to act as a windbreak at the north end of our plot, because the wind comes from the northwest in our community garden's field. I doubt we'll get corn from it, planting so late in the season.) They are starting to break the ground! Along with all the thistles lol. Then, last weekend, I trotted out to plant some vines (pumpkin, zucchini x 3 types, acorn and butternut squash, and cantaloupe), a couple rows of red and yellow onions, and some flowers along the front of our plot (the garden association 'requires' us to plant a flower border on edges next to paths, but not everyone does it.) There's a healthy population of cutworms at the garden - previously we've used collars cut from yogurt containers and milk cartons, but this years I just sprinkled crushed egg shells around them. The soil is so clay, it was hard to position the collars properly. Finally, today I ran out after church to plant five rows of yellow and green beans, a row of sugar snap peas, some chard, a bit of cinnamon basil, and some kohlrabi. Many of those beans will be donated to friends and the food bank. I don't really know what kohlrabi is, and we may be too late in the season to plant it, but I needed to fill the space, and I had the seeds (why?) Tomorrow **fingers crossed** I will plant four-ish rows of carrots, and our cucumbers, and the main garden will. be. planted... finally.

It's too much, y'all. I met another family doing a plot for the first time this year, with an 18-month-old little boy. They were looking mighty overwhelmed by the weeds that sprung up everywhere in the short week since they'd last been to the garden. I feel their pain. The plots are very large, and your weed control is only as good as your neighbour's... it can be soooooo discouraging. I'm feeling pretty good about giving it up next year - it will just be so nice to walk out into our own yard and take care of everything - without putting stuff in the car, without driving, without leaving a spouse at home with the kids.

[Does anyone know what this foamy stuff on this plant is? It's some kind of sage plant, I think it's a weed I didn't take care of, and now I act like I want it there on purpose. Anyway, several branches got this foamy stuff on them, some with these tiny bugs nearby. I cut it all off, but was still wondering what it was, and if I can prevent it??] The other night, PB stepped out for the evening, and I decided to weed our front flower beds, as Bean was in bed and Sprout was having her pre-bedtime nap. (Oh to be a newborn, napping six times a day!) (Please don't mention how a three month old hardly qualified as 'newborn' because it already depresses me /sigh. < cliche > They Grow So Fast < /cliche >) Because part of gardening with children is of course gardening by yourself, in stolen half hours and hours when they're (blessedly) asleep but it's still (blessedly) light out, and you can just work without supervising anyone. It's the other side of kinderGARDENing, amiright?

[To be fair, Bean is getting pretty independent in the backyard. He likes to be off by himself, just... chillin'. Check out our rhubarb :)] I don't *like* weeding, nobody likes weeding, in the sense that it's a chore, it's something that has to be done, because there are gross consequences if it's not done. Buuuuuuuut I'll tell you a secret. The actual act of weeding, I kind of enjoy. It's kind of... satisfying. I mean, I get to start at one end, and move steadily to the other, systematically removing what I don't want, leaving a clear line of accomplishment across the soil. It's so tangibly successful - here I have weeded, there I have not, look how pretty I make the world! And it is meditative. I was thinking it'd be fun to hook up my iPod, but realized I'd miss the silence. Y'all know this - the silence of garden work is not really silent; there are birds, there's the wind, there's the gentle sound of just the earth or something. It's peaceful. I think about things. (I think about blog posts about weeding lol) I have developed a technique, it's probably the same as yours - I've learned to pull at the base of the stem, because then I'm more likely to get the root, too. So I sweep my hand under the leaves, low to the soil, passing from stem to stem, tugging with a firm and steady pressure, until I feel that familiar giving way, as the roots give up their purchase in the dirt. It's such a subtle feeling, like the plant is sighing. How do I teach that to my children? It is something that can only be learned by experience. Repeated experience.

[Look at these edible toes! It's mosquito season here is the Prairie Valley City. When you live in a Prairie Valley, which is basically just a giant floodplain, you essentially live in a giant mosquito breeding ground. There is so much 'standing water' here, I mean, the soil itself is moist enough to breed the suckers, I swear! Grass even an inch high is a skeeter city! And we aren't even in the full throes of it yet... but I brought out the netting, just in case]I feel that same giving way in my soul, when I give up on the dishes to cuddle up to my son with a book, when I give up on reading the computer screen to just hold my baby girl as she cries into sleep. I know how it feels to be pulled and pulled by the realities of motherhood, until I become untethered from the dirt of the Daily and the Mundane, and let go. It feels like sacrifice, it feels like being pulled from the earth, and it feels like love.

Or maybe I'm trying to make poetry from something as utterly prosaic as weeding. But isn't that also true of motherhood, making Pretty from the Plain and Regular and Sameoldsameold. Don't we take the stuff of life -cookingcleaningchildren - and make it something poetic, something of concentrated beauty? Don't we dissect the truths of Life from living life, and hold it up to our children, and teach them with it? Teach them how to value it, how to use it, how to survive and thrive and love through it all... Yes, I think that is what we do.

Love yourselves through this week of kinderGARDENing and kinderEVERYTHINGELSEing, friends. And, as always, check out Kim's blog for everyone else's input this week.
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Mama Bean is KinderGARDENing (6)

It feels like we have done no vegetable gardening at all. Here's what I have planted at home - tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, soy beans, lettuce, onions, and herbs. That's a lot, but our main garden is so much bigger and we have plans for so much more, and it's just not happening (!!) because it hasn't been tilled yet (we've hired a guy to do it, and he's... MIA? I dunno. Frustrating.) We should have just rented a tiller and done it ourselves. The rain is a factor. I throw my hands up, I tell you! Up!
Papa Bean snapped this pic for me when he went out to plant the potatoes at our main garden. He planted three boxes, it took up five rows, he worked really hard, and I'm happy something is in the ground out there. It keeps my frustration at bay. The reason we need tilling is because there's a big mat of dead quack grass that we (read: PB) doesn't feel like forking through by hand. But if it doesn't get done tomorrow, we're gonna just plant in the untilled ground, leave the grass patch alone (and slowly fork it over the summer) and, I dunno, deal. My hands are up! Up, I tell you!
Okay, we're still having fun, we're still having summer (Finally!) This little Bean-boy of ours is just endlessly entertaining. Top left, he's looking around for the robin he chased into that tree. Bottom left, he's playing with a wheel. Nine times out of ten, when you look at Bean during the day, he's playing with a wheel or something that has wheels or pointing at a wheel - kid likes wheels. Centre pic: hotdogs = summer. Interesting foot placement optional. Top right, walking with dad. Bottom right, poking a 'button' with a stick. Nine times out of ten, when you look at Bean during the day, he's playing with a stick or something that has sticks or pointing at a stick - kid likes sticks. (I think my math may be a little faulty somewhere in there...) Oh, and Sprout's up there, too, sleeping. Judging by this blog, all she does is sleep; not true. justsayin.
Here's some of the pretty that is growing in our yard. Of note are the cabbage and lettuce sprouts in the bottom right area. They're the only edibles in this collage. Alas, some of the cabbage fell victim to the resident rabbit in our yard. Timely, since Kim is talking about pest control this week. The stinky coleus has not worked, as far as I can tell. Strewing human hair (from PBs quarterly buzzcut) didn't help. I sprinkled some blood meal around tonight, we'll see if there are cabbage sprouts in the morning. Do marigolds and geraniums really keep rabbits away? Our neighbour swears the the onions he plants keep them out of his flower bed, but I'm dubious (though that is why we planted onions back there, most of our sets are really intended for the main garden.) Anyone out there think a scarecrow might work? They aren't terribly afraid of us, we have to actively chase them for them to move out of the yard. In fact, we watched a little showdown between bunny and crow which revealed the rabbit had actually built its nest under our lilac bush in the phlox patch - crazy rabbit! We dug it up (no babies) and dumped a shovelful of topsoil in there.

I know we're probably just gonna have to put up chickenwire around the bed - any suggestions on a minimum height? We put up a 5 foot fence our first year of gardening, and it negatively impacted my weeding, because it was cumbersome to move every time I wanted in there - and that was pre-kids, so. yeah. The whole point of raised beds is Ease of Use. We'll concoct some sort of bracket, easy-to-move system, in all of our 'spare time' this summer. Or we'll just give up and not have any veggies - that sounds like an awesome idea.

The thing is, with all the headache getting our main garden started this year, we've pretty much determined we're not doing the community plot next year; it's just not working out with the kids and time and life and stuff. Instead, we're going to build two more 4'x12' raised beds in our yard, which was the plan all along. We'd like to build them before the end of summer (so we can plant fall onions and garlic!) So, I want to come up with a really good rabbit control strategy!

As always, cruise on over to Kim's to check out the other KinderGARDEN action - maybe someone has already written about all the answers I need for rabbit eradication!!
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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Mama Bean is getting a little hand-wringy about writing and focus

Today, I was lamenting all these blogs posts rattling around my brain that I can't seem to get down on 'the page.' (Sprout's birth story, homebirth advocacy, not washing my hair, washing dishes, baking and domesticity, the list goes on...) I was wishing that there was some way to just curl up somewhere warm and comfy and just be able to write and like not have the internet or distractions or the internet or facebook or the internet or my RSS feed or the internet nearby - like, seriously, why can't I just be on my computer and just be writing and not thinking about my email or my facebook or minesweeper for eff's sake!

Oh! How glorious that would be! What productivity! What golden moments of blogging wisdom would fall from my fingertips!

Wait, Mama Bean, you mean with, like... a pen? and paper?

ohyeahright. that stuff.

Can you imagine how quaint the idea of pen and paper will be to our children?

Tell us the story, mama, about the strange tools that could only do one thing at a time, when multitasking was just a dream of the future! Tell us again, mama!

I am not getting all curmudgeonly on y'all, over here. I am not a Luddite who wrings her hands at what Beastly Technology Hath Wrought. I'm not a so-called first adopter, but I'm also not the last. I was on myspace, I left before it got totally uncool, I've had at least four blogs in my lifetime, I have Twitter, people! So. I'm not gonna go on about the death of print media or anything like that.

On the other hand, it does make me sad, that. Print media.

On the other hand, I do like paper.

I am a paper person. Before blogs, I had those funny things we used to call journals or diaries. lol. I continue to be a Little Pieces of Paper Person, or L3P. Papa Bean is, too (but differently). Are you an L3P? Are there little notes and lists and phone numbers and store receipts with measurements for that shelf you want to put up downstairs and three month old schedules and appointment reminders and candy wrappers just littering your car and countertop and pockets?

If so, we are kin.

It used to strike me (and designers of sit-com sets) that this sort of paper paraphernalia was part of motherhood. All moms on my TV were L3Ps. I embrace it. But I'm getting left in the techno-dust here, folks. I don't even have a cellphone, let alone a smartphone. When I try to use Papa Bean's Blackberry he winces at my ineptitude. My new ipod is driving me crazy because the darn thing won't just do. what. I. want.

Paper never did that. /whine. /pout.

[Here's a lengthy aside: this is what gets me about all these small, portable electronics - the mother effing batteries. I just gah! I don't want to be a freaking battery babysitter! I don't want to have to coddle and care and worry about one more thing dying on me and leaving me helpless in the midst of my most desperate need! Or, you know, when I want to listen to a song or whatever. I am a terrible cellphone mommy, I'm turning out to be a terrible ipod mommy, there is No Hope For Me. Why can't these things charge themselves from the air? Can someone get on that already?! End aside.]


We don't write with pen and paper anymore. How will I teach my children to write in this electronical screen-y way that I, like, get, obviously, or I wouldn't be all bloggy and facebooky etc. but still... are we losing something? (Here comes the hand-wringing...) Are we losing the skills of focus and attention and whole-bodiedness of writing with just our hands holding the pen to the blank sheet of paper? Is there something magical in that which should be sustained, and not merely remembered as... quaint?

And how timely, that Veronica Mitchell should be writing about reading books with the whole body, too:
I bought a book today because of its scent. Because some day my children may want to browse our shelves on their own in the cool basement, and smooth slim volumes may call to them (now where did I leave that pencil?). I bought a book because reading is a dangerous endeavour, and I should be grounded in case of lightning strike, my hands touching something real, my feet rooted with the tree its paper comes from.

So I bought the book with the dusty-rose cover. I will read it with my whole body, even if I only use my eyes.
So maybe that is what I was lamenting - not only my inability to focus and leave the goshdarn RSS alone! I was lamenting writing with my whole body. And now I've got it all out in a shiny shiny blogpost. Aah, irony.

(Ack, Irony! How will I teach my kids about irony?!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Mama Bean is happy to have a little house

We live in a mid-century mid-sized 1 1/2 story house. It's very cute and has, generally speaking, plenty of space for all our stuff, and our wee humans. The layout is very 1950s - kinda chopped up, each room separate, not the open plan of more modern homes.

There was a period when Bean had just started crawling when we were convinced we needed to move to a bigger house with Sprout coming along. Bean was getting into everything; we couldn't be one room away from him to do anything, because who knew where he was crawling to or what he was pulling himself up onto or when his fingers would eventually get into the wrong stuff. And that was the same time the Toys distinctly mounted their offensive Takeover of our living space - it felt so sudden! We were unprepared! Now? Now we are... resigned. I wish all parents were resigned to the Toy Takeover, but I know enough moms with pristine homes to know I'm just... I just want... I have... focused on other priorities? Yeah, that sounds noble. Better than lazy, right? :P

But a bigger house was not to be, as yet. In a few years. Sprout arrived, in the same living room Bean arrived in, and lo and behold, our mid-century mid-sized 1 1/2 story house has more than enough room for both wee bodies. I'm not sure how much room we thought a newborn was gonna take - turns out she's quite small :) I'm sure resignation towards the toys and Bean's increasing independence help.

Anyway, we really quite love this little house. We've made a lot of memories here. We've built a home.

Here's what I've learned to love lately - I can hear all of Bean's little pitter-pattering activities, and monitor them accordingly. When he's in the basement having a bedtime bottle with Papa Bean, and I'm feeding Sprout in her (mainfloor) nursery, I can hear him finish, and hear PB ask him to take his empty bottle to the kitchen sink. I can hear him climb the basement stairs, pausing on the landing to look out into the garage through the screen door. I can hear him trot through the kitchen, past the sink, across the hallway, and stop at the entrance to the living room (play room). I can hear him pause and consider, where's-mom-look-at-my-toys-was-there-something-I-was-supposed-to-do-hmmm... And I can gently remind him from down the hall, Bean please put your bottle in the sink. And then I hear him do it.

And thank him.

And hear him smile, because he's always pretty proud when he knows he's done the right thing.

It's a good little house we've got here <3

Monday, June 6, 2011

Mama Bean finds there's a fine line between being a Proud Mom and being a Smug mom.

I think it is natural to be happy when some aspect of parenting that is confusing or challenging works out for you. You're happy when teething goes smoothly. You're happy when time-outs get the biting to stop. Whatever. It's happy when something that could be tough or was indeed tough turns around and is good or easy or not tough anymore. This makes mommas smile. I like to be happy about my own parenting victories. And I like to be happy about my parenting good luck, too.

I think it is natural to be proud of your children, when they learn something new, when they overcome a challenge. It's good to be proud of ourselves, too, to give ourselves some momma-credit when we overcome or succeed or, sometimes often, simply survive a particular parenting moment or phase. I am proud of my children, and I am proud of myself.

I think it's silly to get (too) proud about things your children do that are out of your control. Some kids are better sleepers than others. Some kids teethe sooner and easier than others. Some kids potty train earlier and easier than others. some All kids are different from others. So, like, be happy about the differences that make life easier. And maybe be sad and a little envious about the differences that present challenges. But recognize that it's not anything kids do on purpose, it's often just luck (even the sheer luck of passing on the more positive aspects of your genetic make-up versus others, it's not even our genes we can be proud of...) so there's nothing to be (too) proud about. Smile. But don't gloat.

That link is a little piece of bloggy history. Yeah, I gloated. I was a smug mom, for like, two paragraphs. Mea culpa. Please forgive me.

It's a very fine line, but at that fine point, pride becomes gloat. Becomes boast. Becomes smug. And smug? Makes me want to punch you in the face.

I'm trying to identify and navigate and be very careful about this line, because I don't want to be smug. I don't want to be something that makes me want to punch myself in the face.

I took pains in the post about how we chose to space our children to avoid sounding at all like I was implying in any fashion that our choice was the best choice for everyone, that our choice was anything beyond simply the choice that worked for us, and I still had defensive comments on facebook from people with different spacing.

What is the line... and how do I keep myself on the right side of it?

I think smug is the point when your pride in your parenting victory is expressed as pity for others. Smug goes beyond saying, "I'm so happy about [blank]" and sounds more like, "It's too bad you're not experiencing [blank] like I am." Does that make sense? I mean, no mom actually walks around saying, oh it's too bad your kid isn't just like mine. But it's implied, somehow, it's insinuated...

Or am I just being oversensitive? When you're on the receiving end of Smug, even the most innocent comments add their voice to the chorus of insecurities already running around your head, amiright? And then, what Smug sounds most like is Pity, and I don't know about you, but hate feeling pitied. Even in the most hormone-addled, sleep-deprived, low self-confident moments, I'd hate feeling pitied. Feeling pities makes you resist and push back and... punch smug people in the face lol.

Anyway, there's always a danger in writing a post like this. There's a danger in saying "This behaviour is kinda sucky" because then, whenever there's a whiff of me behaving that way, all the trolls that took it personally come out and let me know what a hypocrite I am. Or they go back in the archives of my (online or off) life and point out past examples. That'll suck... Anyway, I'm not saying I have this all figured out, I'm saying it's been on my mind. I've been noticing just how fine the line is, and I'm aware that I want to be on the right side of it. For the good of my family, and the community of mothers (online and off) I belong to, and for myself. So, I say the following with great humility, hoping that I will be treated with grace:

I'm (over the moon) happy with my experience as a mom. I'm (really quite) proud of my kids and my family, and on a good day, myself. But I'm not smug. Please, punch me in the face if I ever am. (Figuratively... :P)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mama Bean is KinderGARDENing (5)

These weeks of KinderGARDENing are just jetting by, and I feel like we've barely started any real gardening! The sun has only just started to show up - here's the babies practicing good sun safety with their hats :) At least today I put my soy beans into the ground, andandAND we have cabbage and lettuce sprouts :D My staff member told me to put salt and pepper on my cabbages (when they're more than sprouts, obvs) to keep the caterpillars/worms away. Does anyone know if this works?

It's not that we haven't been busy! Here's a little collage of yard changes - our compost bins are now against the back fence, flanked by rhubarb plants that have already been harvested for some fresh rhubarb platz earlier this week. And where the bins used to be we laid down some sidewalk blocks for a little BBQ patio. Except we didn't properly level the ground under the blocks, so we may have to redo it, if rain during the summer makes it obvious the blocks will be undermined and liable to crack over winter :( But it is a much tidier little corner now without the compost bins right against the house. We have a trio of herbs potted - summer savoury, chocolate mint, and cilantro. Will the mint come back if I leave it in the pot? What about the other two - are they perennial? I know I could just google it... Those purple flowers are planted en masse at Bean's playground, they smell delicious. It's a bulb, but I don't know what they're called - anyone recognize them? They seem to bloom a long time, I'll have to see if I can find some at a greenhouse to plant at home. Wonder if they spread... I was so excited to see my hens'n'chickens had developed all these little balls between the leaves, I thought they were going to turn into new chickens. But PB discovered (with google, of course) that they are seed pods, which should be removed if you want the hens to keep growing (i.e. not send their resources into seed making just yet) so we brushed them off, but not before snapping some pics.

Clearly there is no gardening happening in this picture. We went to a massive neighbourhood garage sale, and I wanted to show our haul. I could wax on about the importance of reusing and recycling, and how important it is to the environment, and our desire to raise our children with proper attitudes towards the lifetimes of usefulness in consumer goods... but mostly we like a good deal! (Kids are expensive, spread the word!) PB is especially happy with Sprout's little chair thingy, and Bean very much enjoyed his new kitchen and Tonka truck.

Check out Kim's place to see what all the other KinderGARDENers are up to!
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