Gardening!

All last year my amazing husband made me a garden. I helped, but it was mostly him doing the hard labor of a 1920’s prisoner.

I designed the plans – to scale, thank you very much – of 2 different gardens. One for veg and one for fruit.

All summer long he augered in the posts by hand to create an 8-foot fence that would discourage even the most determined deer. Then He and his dad put up the fencing and the mesh roof on the fruit bed. We used regular animal-proof fencing for the vegetable garden and then got hardware cloth to keep the birds away from the precious, precious raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries that we would be growing.

 

Then he started on the actual raised beds. We built the vegetable bed just about 3-feet high while the fruit beds were only about 18 inches high. I am particularly proud of the strawberry beds, which I designed to be squares that stacked on top of each other in a diamond pattern. It allows the strawberries to cascade down as they throw runners. It actually also makes it easier to plant and harvest, too, which was an unexpected bonus.

Then came the dirt. 7 cubic feet of soil specifically for raised bed planting. The dump truck came, he dumped, and then, wishing us good luck, he drove away. I would like to give a special thank you to our friends Trish, Bill, and Natalie who helped us take an uncountable number of wheelbarrow loads around the house and into the beds. Even the boys helped. And thank you to Karl and Nadine who let us borrow their wheelbarrows so that everyone could have one. And because of their amazing help, we were done in only 3 hours!

Just so you know, all this took the entire spring and summer of 2018. We didn’t get anything planted or harvested that year. It lay there, taunting me all fall and winter. So this spring I was very impatient to get things planted.

I started with radishes, as you do, since radishes a) like to be planted early and b) only take 80 days to be ready to harvest. And I threw in some lettuces and peas because they also don’t seem to care that it’s March. I also threw in some (a whopping 75) onions and some beets. Because why not.

Then we planted potatoes. H filled one entire bed all by himself specifically so he could grow potatoes. So, by heaven, there are little potato seedlings in this deep trench waiting to sprout.

Now that it’s April I’ve moved into cabbages and cauliflower and I just today planted some tomatoes!

Warning – photos ahead!

Onions and Beets
Tomatoes!! Which, I’d like to point out, were started by my students at The Journey School.
There are potatoes in there. I promise.
Cabbages, Cauliflower, and Onion
Peas are climbing up!
Baby Radishes
Teeny-Tiny Lettuces
The Veg Bed!

I’ve been learning a lot more about companion plantings. The tomatoes will have basil with them. There are some marigolds planted around to serve as a natural pest deterrent. Then I’m going to add nasturtium, which are edible and serve as a pest deterrent for a lot of plants.

More plants also need to go in. We are mulling around adding other plants we eat a lot of – bush beans, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and bell peppers are only a few. (i.e. updates will be coming.)

On the fruit side of things, we have fewer decisions to make and more waiting to do.

We planted the strawberries last week and we are already seeing some fruit.

The blueberries are in. They were beautiful bright emerald green when I planted them. After a flurry of Googling I learned the bright emerald leaves turn purple when they get cold. They are greening back up rapidly, which is a relief.

I am waiting for the raspberries to show up. I found a variety called Joan J that is thornless (yay!) and produces a berry specifically for eating. We’ll let you know how delicious they are this fall. (Fingers crossed.)

And then for the part I am super, duper excited about. The terrace between the gardens! We are putting down landscaping cloth and spreading pea gravel over the top to create a nice area for a fire pit and a couple of chairs. It’s not done just, but we are getting close.

The garden is so lovely and inviting to dig in I am finding I want to spend more and more time out there in it. The fire pit will be a fun addition that will let us enjoy the garden in the evening as well.

Now to convince my lovely husband that we need lights out there, too!!

The Book It’s Meant to Be – Thoughts on my First Draft

I have, after almost a year of writing, finished the first draft of my first fiction novel.

Time to pop the champagne and have a celebratory dinner out.

But I’m not as thrilled as you would think.

Sure, I am happy. And I’m proud of myself. This took a lot of my time and effort and enormous amounts of understanding from my family. And I have a pile of pages in front of me, freshly printed out from Kinkos and trapped in a binder.

But…..

I know there is a ton of work ahead of me. Rough drafts are called rough for a reason. This book is so rough it could scrape the barnacles off a boat. While I’m trying to be happy and feel a sense of relief about finishing this book, I know that there are scenes in there that need to be immediately banished and burned. Those thoughts, lurking around my brain and making my chest tight, are driving me forward. I see the work ahead and it is massive.

And I can’t wait to get to it!!

I am excited to edit. I can’t wait to get in there and start making it the book it is meant to be.

I hope I can do my characters and ideas enough justice that one day you can read this story. But I am also okay with it being a practice book. Every author has one or two or three of those lurking in a drawer somewhere. And they should. (I certainly do.) Just because you read books doesn’t mean that you know how to write books.

But still I hope that one day you will read this book I am working on.

Or you can read the next one. 😉

4 Life Skills That Will Teach Kids How to Shoulder Responsibility

I have a new article up at AFineParent.com. This one is all about how raising your kids to be competent adults by giving them responsibility now. Not only is this article full of great research, but it give you a little view into my family life.

 

Here I am. Folding laundry. The ball and chain of chores.

I thought it was bad when they were babies and they had multiple outfit changes. I buoyed my spirits by telling myself that when they were older and didn’t spit up so much and were neater eaters things would be better.

Well, let me tell you, people. It’s not better.

They are 12 and 9 now and it still never ends. I do some laundry and then there is always more that appears! Some random white t-shirt when I’d just done all the whites shows up in the basket, mocking me.

And most of it is theirs! Their pants! Their shirts! Their socks and underwear! Without me they’d never leave the house in clean clothes.

OMG. Without me they’d never leave the house in clean clothes!!

What about when they go to college? Who’s going to do their laundry?

What about when they get married? Am I setting some poor person up for a lifetime of no help with laundry duty?

Holy cow, I am!

I had to wonder what other responsibilities I hadn’t taught them about yet, either because they were “too young” or because it was faster to do it myself.

Then I wondered when I was actually going to find the time to teach them things like laundry, cooking, and washing the dishes. And what about bigger responsibilities like managing money? When was I going to get around to that?

This little epiphany hit me in the middle of folding towels. I looked down at them and realized I needed to start immediately. And I could start with towels.

That was my first step on the path to really, thoughtfully teaching my kids the life skills that lead to learning responsibility. The next step was to decide what to teach them next.

To read more click here—–>

Lateness and Effort in Writing

I’m a bit late on this, but lateness seems to be one of my main characteristics recently.

I am late for lunches out, late to appointments, late in getting my children to bed. I’m just late.

I am also late in my own personal deadlines for this book I’m working on.

I am writing a book. A fiction novel about a woman who loses her sense of who she is when her husband dies and has to go back to her hometown in order to finally find out who she was meant to be.

I meant to get my first draft done by December 31st. However it is now January 14th and I have at least a solid week of writing left to go.

I could have had it done by December 31st, but my own entire sense of self slid off the map and I was completely overwhelmed by what it would mean to finish this book. Because finishing the first draft is so not the end of writing a book. Even finishing the last draft is not the end. Nor does it end with finding and agent or getting the book really and actually published. And that is overwhelming because I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just a woman with a story that has been bouncing around in my head for a few years and I finally took the time to sit down and try and get it out.

And it has poured out of me. I have over 95,000 words right now and I’m still not done.

Oh, I know that there will be some major rewriting happening. And I know for sure that a whole section is going to be cut and buried in the boneyard. That is daunting, too.

People think that writing a book is a piece of cake. I know that as a reader I devour books in just days. Sometimes even as little as 1 day. So far this book as taken me 375 days to write. And I’m not done yet. I feel close to finishing my first draft – like I said, I think I can be done in a week, but then there are the second, third, and fourth drafts, too.

I hope one day you will be able to read this book in 2019. And then the others that come after this first effort. Because I have more stories that are begging to be told.

Summer Writing

This summer has sucked for writing. Absolutely sucked.

I have gotten nothing done. I wanted to have a draft of my book finished by the end of this month, but I am miles away from that now.

I’m trying to write today, but am finding it impossible. Why?

The kids. The house. The garden.

I have discovered that I need to be alone and away from people in order to write fiction. Writing fiction requires that I disconnect from the world around me and complete immerse myself into the world that I have created. This is impossible with the kids around.

They aren’t even necessarily coming to me directly with questions or requests. They are in their own worlds – and they are incredibly noisy about it. I was attempting to write a romance/romantic tension scene the other day and the 9 year old started doing armpit farts in the other room. Do you know how hard it is to write about gentle caresses and toe-curling kisses with armpit farts going off in the other room?

Plus they have their own schedules for which I need to play taxi. Not to mention the dreaded summer homework where I am required to provide interpretation and assistance. Weekly I am ferrying them to the library to pick up books for their reading lists.

Then there is the garden. A huuuuuge work in progress of two enclosed gardens where we can plant vegetables and have a perennial fruit bed without accidentally establishing a salad bar for the local deer. And that isn’t even mentioning the flower beds that ring the house and produce mind-blowing amounts of weeds.

And the house. With 2 children and 2 cats the house always needs to be cleaned. And the populace fed. Which requires trips to the grocery store. And before you say “you can always order your groceries” I know. I pioneered that in Switzerland. I have run into stumbling blocks with bugs in the computer system that I need to devote some unknown quantity of time into conquering.

Not that I really mind any of that. I love going to the library. I love reading. I love cooking. I love my children. I tolerate weeding.

But any notion that I had of a summer free from work obligations to “just write” was a fantasy, at best.

I really did have the best of intentions. I brought notebooks with me on vacation. I set up daily word count charts. I cleared my calendar and put my two other part-time jobs on hold. It turns out that parenting duties ballooned up to fill the void.

While the balloon was filling I was stuck. I was spinning my wheels, not accomplishing anything. The garden is full of weeds. The house is, well, it’s clean, but I have boxes of stuff to go to charity and no pictures on my walls yet. The only thing that was getting done was the boys’ stuff and that’s because all the kid-stuff is like a raging river sucking you downstream with it. It was easier to just go with the flow.

It is a hard and stinging lesson, but if I want to finish this book I’m going to have to be (a) really disciplined about my schedule, (b) very firm about my needs, and (c) learn to say “no” and “I need help.”

“Pfft. That is basic! Everyone knows that!” you say.

That is true. Everyone does know that. On a hypothetical or theoretical level. But it’s not until you have sat there looking down at a word count chart that is virtually empty that you really learn the lesson. Failure is the best teacher, you know.

Tonight I am going out to write. I am taking myself to a little cafe for dinner, then I’m going to pull out my laptop and write until my fingers cramp. Or as my friend Diana says it “WRITE ALL THE WORDS!!!!”

Until then, I am going to be with my children, my house, and my garden.

 

Dave Grohl Saved My Marriage

I was watching a re-run of the Foo Fighters singing on Carpool Karaoke and I started to get all nostalgic. Not because of the Nirvana connection.

You see, Dave Grohl saved my marriage.

It was eons ago. Probably 2BC. BC = Before Children. We didn’t have kids, but I wanted them.

I wanted it badly. I wanted to be pregnant the way a 10 year old wants a pony. With a longing passion that could not be quenched. When I was 10 I also wanted a pony. I would leave the horse section of the want-ads open and strategically placed with likely horsey candidates circled in various ink colors. Every day I would do this to my parents. I would constantly cite horse facts. I went to horse camp. I played a game called “horses” with my best friend at school so much the nuns eventually called us in to discuss other games we could/should play.

And that was for only a horse.

This was a baby.

I was relentless.

I started reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I joined a Trying To Conceive online group. I bought Taking Control of Your Fertility and left it on my bedside table. I would mention interesting baby names I’d heard or read about.

After months of a not-so-subtle and completely unsuccessful baby campaign I decided I needed to take the bull by the horns and finally talk to my husband. I told him flat-out that my biological clock was a-ticking and I would like to have a baby or two before I turned the big 3-0.

“Well, that’s just not going to happen,” said my husband. “I’m not ready. And if you keep bringing up babies I’m not going to be ready any time soon.”

I was crushed. “I can’t mention it at all?”

“No.”

“Not even the cute nursery idea I read about online?”

“Nope.”

“Nothing?”

“Nothing. I need to come to this decision myself.”

I crawled into bed absolutely bereft. This was going to be hard. I had nothing but babies on the brain and wasn’t sure how our dinner conversations were going to go for the next few months. I think I cried a little and then I went to sleep.

That night I had the most amazing dream. And when I woke up I had to tell Mark all about it.

“There’s a part in this you aren’t going to like, but just wait until the end,” I cautioned.

I was back in my childhood home and we were sitting around the orange-topped Formica table that had been in that kitchen for my entire life. All of us were there. Me, Mark, Mom, Dad, my brother, and my sister-in-law. I was about 8 months pregnant and no one was happy about it. I wasn’t. Mark wasn’t. My dad had this disappointed look on his face and, if this had been another kind of dream, my mom’s eyes would have shot laser beams out of them. We just sat there looking at the bologna sandwiches sitting on our plates, ignoring my incredibly ripe belly, and not talking. Or eating.

Except Dave Grohl.

He was at the table, a bologna sandwich in each hand, wolfing them down. He looked around at us and our long faces and said, mouth full, “I don’t know what all you are so upset about. I think this is great! Life is a beautiful thing!” Then he grabbed the sandwich off my dad’s plate and started eating that, too.

When I told Mark we had the best laugh. A deep, connecting and cleansing laugh that tells you everything is going to be okay and nothing will ever come between us.

So, thanks, Dave Grohl. You saved my marriage.

Hands Off, Yet Supportive

Okay. Today I’m trying to be hands off, yet supportive with my kids. It’s easier with one than the other and that has to do with how much confidence I have in their competence. And that is my fault.

Backing up, I went to an incredible talk by Jessica Lahey, the amazing author of The Gift of Failure: how the best parents learn to let go so their children can succeed. And I came home inspired.

If you have not read it and you have kids you should definitely read this book. I came away from reading the book and from listening to Jessica speak energized and ready to face how I am rescuing my children from failure. (She is a dynamic speaker so if you have the chance to see her in person do it. Personally, I’m waiting for her TED Talk. Actually, here is the next best thing.)

It dawned on me that, even though I am a parenting consultant, author, and educator, I have totally been rescuing my kids from failure in some crucial areas of their lives.

I don’t take their homework to them. Or their lunch if they forgot it. They can deal with the consequences – which are pretty low-stakes consequences in 3rd and 6th grade. I also don’t wash their clothes or do their chores if they forget. They can wear (only slightly) dirty pants and the chores can (almost always) wait.

But I do constantly remind them of deadlines and other “crucial” things.

“Do you have your lunch?” (Which I, until last month, packed for them.)

“Did you brush your teeth, comb your hair, wash your face?”

“Do you have your homework?”

“Is everything you need in your backpack?”

“Take your coat!”

Now, it would be one thing if I was only saying this once. But it’s not just once. It’s constantly and throughout the morning. And even if I decide that this time I am NOT reminding them of anything! I find myself giving hints. “It’s 7:45!” (Implying that he’s got 5 minutes until he has to go.) “Do you have pants in your drawer?” (Hinting that if he doesn’t that he needs to do something about it.)

Well, not today. Today I am pulling off the training wheels.

No reminding. No hints. No sneaky implying.

This feels easier with my younger than my older. Partially because my younger is in 3rd grade and forgetting his homework at this age feels very low-stakes, and partially because he is a child who has always remembered the rules of the house and stuck with them. Does he make mistakes? Sure he does. In fact, he forgot his binder and homework today on the table because he was too into reading his new book.

But there is something about him and his personality that makes me feel more confident that he will (a) learn from failure and (b) he will bounce back.

My older child is a different story. He takes failure much more personally than his brother. In the trade we call that he is in the Fixed Mindset house. And we are working on getting him up the walkway to the Growth Mindset house. in middle school, which feels much more high-stakes in some way. He’s getting letter grades. He has multiple homework assignments that go to multiple teachers to juggle. And he has very little frontal lobe ability, right now.

See, the pre-frontal cortex, which controls things like executive function, organization, cause and effect, and personality, isn’t fully connected yet. It’s like kids’ brains have a dirt road connection to the pre-frontal cortex and are slooooowly upgrading to a super-highway.

The most frustrating thing about this is that the pre-frontal cortex can click on and off at a moment’s notice. One minute he is on top of his stuff. The next he is wandering around the house with one sock on and a shoe on his sock-less foot. And you never know when the cortex is on. There isn’t a light or a flag that signals “all systems go!” I just have to watch what happens and hope it isn’t a train wreck.

Like today. I have no idea what is going to happen as I see the clock ticking towards 7:50am – the latest he can leave and not be late for school. The closer the second hand gets to the 50 the more I can feel myself wanting to say something. Anything! He’s going to be late! It’s going to be a disaster! He’s not paying attention!!! There is no clock in the room where he is sitting!! Maybe I need to buy one??? GAAAHHHH!

And now it’s 7:50am. And I am not saying anything. I’m sitting here sipping my coffee and watching the clock tick on to 7:51. His lunch (that he packed) is on the counter. He has no water bottle inside it.

Then, suddenly, he is up and walking into the kitchen where he can see a clock and realizes it’s time to go. He goes to his backpack, checks it, comes back for his lunch (no water bottle), actually grabs his rain coat, and then zips his backpack up and heads out the door. It’s 7:54am.

It’s like a miracle has occurred. The amount of relief I feel is enormous. He actually did it. By himself. And there was no yelling or rushing or pushing and we were able to hug and I could say, “Have fun!” and mean it.