garden, summer, water play

Summer Sunday afternoon…in pictures

The Slip ‘n’ Slide. (Just as much fun as you remember.)
A backyard hat party.
One ecstatic pool-goer…first time in the baby pool.
A second bathing beauty, whose joy is more measured but still genuine.
Running and slipping never gets old.
A teeny tiny harvest…baby squash, black beauty cherry tomatoes, and one “regular” tomato
The afterparty. Look, they got bathed twice this month. (That’s a joke…but only just.)
activities, ice planets, parenting, planets, projects, summer, The Boy

Ice Planets – an activity turned snack.

It has been really, really hot here.

The Boy has been wanting to go outside all the time. We had some fun water play in our yard on Friday during a playdate with friends, but it’s been so muggy and uncomfortable that I’ve been avoiding going out. Then, I happened upon a post at Play at Home Mom about making planets out of ice. Given The Boy’s current fascination (obsession?) with all things planetary, it seemed like a natural fit. Also, it seemed easy. While I’m generally in awe of the amazing ideas that the Play at Home Moms pull off with their young ones, I’m also overwhelmed by my everyday life about 70% of the time…which means I can’t necessarily construct a bubble in my living room in which to do blacklight activities (as completely incredible as that would be!). This one, though, seemed doable, even for me.

We had balloons left over from my birthday this week, so The Boy chose one for each planet, plus a few extras. We filled them with water at the sink. The Boy told me when to stop filling each one so they would be the desired size. We added drops of food coloring (I did this part, though he told me how many drops and which colors to put in each balloon). We put them in the freezer overnight.
(They might have frozen faster if he hadn’t checked on them seven or eight times.)
Planets, fresh from the freezer and ready to be released from their balloons.
We took them outside, and I used scissors to cut open the balloons so The Boy could help me peel them off. The whole time we were getting them out, I was cranky and snapping at him when he grabbed at the scissors. My trouble with being a parent with a background in education is that I know what I really should be doing and saying to support his learning in a situation like this. Where was my scaffolding, my open-ended questions? I kept thinking that I was ruining his experience of this perfectly good activity…what good does it do to pull off something cool like this if Mama is going to be all crabby during the execution of it and mess it up for everyone?
In my defense, it was hot. It was late afternoon, just an hour or so before dinner. The babies were fussing. There were hundreds of gnats attacking us on the driveway. And also, he can be kind of irritating. He’s 3 1/2.
(Don’t worry – I know my limitations, and there are reasons I’m not planning to homeschool him.)
Once the ice spheres were all out of the balloons, The Boy lined them up in order on the driveway. He started with the Sun and went through all eight planets, then added Pluto (“I know it isn’t a planet any more, but I still love it, so it gets to line up,”) and Ceres (“It’s a non-planetary object, which is the same as Pluto, so it gets to be in the line, too”).
Can’t argue with that logic, I guess.
More or less spherical, kind of to scale…the Sun is the biggest of all and Jupiter is bigger than the other planets. I think Venus and Neptune might be the same size, but that’s probably not important…they still looked really cool!
They started melting immediately. It was, as I believe I mentioned, hot.
The Boy moved them all to the top of the driveway and started drawing their orbits with sidewalk chalk.
He stopped to check out his work.
Then, he ate them.
All of them, one at a time, saving the Sun for last.
“I am a black hole! That’s why I’m eating planets! Neptune, you’re next…”
You can’t make this stuff up.
As he sat there, food coloring dripping down his hands and chin, he said, “This is so, so cool. I think we should do this again tomorrow.”
And even in my grouchy state, I had to admit it had turned out pretty well.  He had fun, even though I wasn’t doing a stellar job of interacting with him. I’d definitely do it again.
garden, summer

Square Foot Gardening

This spring, I did something I have been wanting to do for ten years.

I planted a vegetable garden in my own yard.

While we were renting, we were limited to growing tomatoes in pots on the deck. Two years ago, I added some peppers. It was more for fun than for food. Space was at a premium.

Last year, I was stuck in bed and didn’t get to grow vegetables. (I grew two people, though, so we’ll call it a net gain.)

This year, I am so excited to get to garden again…sort of for the first time.

Since we weren’t sure of the soil quality, I decided to go with a raised bed. We built it 4 x 4 feet, a small size that I felt sure I could handle with everything else that is on my plate. I wanted to be sure this project would feel fun and manageable.

A friend of mine who has gardened a lot suggested looking online for “intensive gardening” tips. Since we are using such a small space, we will not be growing things in traditional rows. I learned that intensive gardening is popular in urban areas and is just starting to really catch on in the United States (though it has been used in France for hundreds of years). Some advantages of intensive gardening are that it saves water and cuts down on weed growth. You can grow a lot more vegetables in a lot less space. Although we have plenty of space in the yard, I’m excited about using this technique and hope it will keep the garden feeling like a fun project instead of like one more thing on my to do list!

A specific type of intensive gardening is called square foot gardening. The plot is divided into 1 foot by 1 foot squares that are planted with one, four, nine, or sixteen plants (depending on the type of plant). I found a wealth of information on this site, My Square Foot Garden. Emily has so much advice based on her own experience, complete with photos and videos. The Square Foot Gardening Foundation (founded by Mel Bartholomew, who literally wrote the book on square foot gardening) has a lot of helpful information, as well.

The Boy helped me lay out the twine to mark our squares and write labels on popsicle sticks to mark the plants. He kept asking about the chicken wire fence we were putting up…”why do rabbits eat veggies, mama? What if rabbits eat our squash? What else do rabbits eat?” He seemed concerned that if we denied the rabbits access to the plants, they might get hungry. I think he’ll be a great garden helper as long as I can convince him that we need the plants more than the rabbits do!

We missed the cold weather crops for spring, but we will try some in the fall. For now, we have planted tomatoes (bush variety and cherry tomatoes), cucumbers, squash, zucchini, basil, pole beans, bush beans, and orange, green and yellow peppers. Most of these were plants already started and transplanted into the garden, but we put a few seeds straight in the ground to see what happens.

So far, the garden work feels refreshing and restorative…so I don’t think this will add to the feeling that I’m doing too much. Besides, it will be so great for The Boy to be able to eat veggies that he helped to grow. Stay tuned for garden updates…