Lorna’s 10 Rules for Living

I had one of those enlightening moments a few weeks ago after searching the web late at night for answers to unanswerable questions.

I was in the second week of our family’s cruise through a terrible virus that went through all four of us one by one, giving us high fevers, turning us into immobile congested blobs on the floor, causing me to lose my voice for two days, and eventually giving me and my son extremely painful ear infections near the end of its devastating life cycle. I still can’t hear well two weeks later and have tinnitus in both ears. Stupid virus.

As a side note, have you ever done that – used Google as a Magic-8 Ball?  I am a pray-er and I usually find the answer I am looking for to existential questions through deep meditation, relaxed thought or quiet listening over a few days. However, sleep deprivation, frustration and lack of patience sometimes gets the better of me and I look anywhere for some sort of answer.

If you ask Google questions like, “Why are the viruses out to get my family?” or “Where is my mind?” or, “What is the meaning of life, anyway?”, sometimes there are interesting search results. Sometimes an article will give me that bit of distraction that help me get to sleep finally, or, sometimes even a hint at an answer.

Anyway, it was during one of these searches that an article or two on Midlife Crisis came up. I realized, I am almost 40 and it looks like I am right on schedule for that. In my past posts you might have seen me struggle with motherhood verses starting a company, my trial over being authentic with my music, and a quest for peace of mind with gardening and fitness. So I think I’ve been going through it for a few years now.

I have heard it said that in your 40s, you become who you are meant to be. People often say the 40s are great, the pinnacle of your life, the best part of your career. They are a time you can enjoy your wealth as you are healthy, confident and vibrant.

But, for a woman, I think the 40s are a bit terrifying as they mark the end of our youth. We lose our fertility during these years and we see ourselves age in a way that can no longer be hidden. Our cultural beauty stock is starting to go little by little. The change of life is now something on our radar.

In short, we face our mortality at 40. Perhaps that is why we become who we need to be in this decade because many of us realize that our time on earth does have its limits. Make hay while the sun still shines. Quit putzing around and find our fate.

I am sure this realization of mortality happens for men too (at 40? at 50?) though I can only truly speak from my own feminine experience.

I think that though we human beings are amazing creatures with our immense brains, long history, and complex cultures, we have many limitations. The biggest I believe is memory.

We go about our days thinking through our many lists and responsibilities that we easily lose sight of the important things we have learned over the years. It is helpful to have a list to refer to when one is banging one’s head against the wall over a problem that seems all too familiar.

So, in the spirit of managing my midlife crises to become a stage of learning, rather than a tumultuous existence of questioning and complaining, here is a list of my personal rules for living, gathered by many, many, many embarrassing mistakes and blunders throughout the years. They are not universal, but I bet you will find some gems in here even if you don’t agree with all of them.

Lorna’s 10 Rules for Living, 2014

1. Stand up for your needs. People will complain when this inconveniences them. But through many hard lessons learned, I no longer care. Sucks to be them. If you don’t stand up for your needs, it will suck to be you but those same people really won’t care.

2. When trusting someone with something important, consider their track record. Even if this person is older than you or more charming than you are, if they have never done what you need them for, it is a bad call to put a lot of trust in them. I’m all for giving people chances, but there is a difference between giving someone a chance and trusting them to do something important. I’ve fallen into a bad habit all too often of acting like a daughter with my older friends only to find myself in a bad situation over and over. I know my older friends aren’t out to get me; but part of my responsibility is realizing that sometimes I actually know or have experienced more than my older friends in certain situations.

3. I am a very professional person when it comes to work. It is part of who I am and I cannot work any other way. I prefer contracts in writing over verbal agreements. I need due dates and schedules. Though this may seem obvious to my white collar friends, my friends in the arts are divided over how they work on their endeavors. After several music project disasters of trying to go with the flow and being laid back and being driven absolutely batty with my laid back counterparts, I realize I am from the straight arrow camp.

4. Get a good 8 hours of sleep. A 20 minute nap in the afternoon also does wonders. Stop staying up so late. Another reason why my posts take several days to complete.

5. Only work on one, maybe two big projects at a time. Those of you who know me well know that this is a huge pitfall of mine. I should probably review Rule #5 on a weekly basis.

6. Prioritize your energy and guard it like a pit bull. 1. Your sanity, 2. your family’s needs, 3. your friend’s needs, 4. be kind to everyone else. Say no to lots of new requests and projects. Only say yes to something that is new if you know you are ending or ready to end something else. A schedule gets just as cluttered as your house. Also, review #5 again.

7. Also similar to Rule #5, I am a scheduler by identity. I am very busy. It’s not that I think I am too important for you, but me and my family have a lot going on. The kids have extracurricular classes, we have family events, my husband does a lot of traveling and I am serious about my music projects. So if you constantly ask me to do stuff that is less than a week out, I won’t be able to do it. I still like you but just bring a calendar next time. If you don’t have a calendar, you should get one. You need a schedule, don’t you?

8. Never give up. Tomorrow is a fresh new day. I get knocked down, but I get up again…Simple, overdone rule. But vital to survival.

9. Don’t be greedy. You can take too much of anything, even good stuff (someone else’s time and patience for example). Be mindful and only take what you need.

10. Never ask anyone else if something (art, music, writing, your butt in those jeans, your latest and greatest idea for changing the world), is good enough. You already know. Of course your butt looks great.

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Are You a Winner?

For the past year I have regularly attending classes at a nice gym. I really enjoy it; I’ve never  worked out regularly before joining and now I wonder why I waited so long.

I thought it would be so much more painful than it is. I do push myself and sometimes I am uncomfortable, but not overly. I now like the feeling of a raised heart rate so often I go just to the point of nausea. I figure my nice classmates would not enjoy me throwing up next to them. As a side note, I think the most painful class I had all year was Pilates the Monday after Thanksgiving. 

The best thing about going to the classes is the moment I get in the car to go home. There is that nice adrenaline high going on and I drive home singing and smiling. Everything about the world is fiiiiiiiiine. It never fails.

Anyway, I wanted to share a story that happened in spin class and how it made me feel about being “a winner.”

Exercise instructors are amazing people. I do not think we give them enough accolades. Thinking of it from their perspective, they are doing a workout, shouting over loud music, and trying to inspire a bunch of cranky people in pain without causing anyone injury. Only a few very special people can do this I think.

One day in spin class and there was a guest instructor. Wow, was she fit! She was bouncy and beautiful with those Linda Hamilton arms that make me consider lifting weights every day (though at this point in my life I forget all about weights after class until I see another exercise instructor with Linda Hamilton arms).

She warmed us up and got our hearts racing a bit. Then she started us on an imaginary mountain climb. She said, “OK everyone! You are in a big race to the top of the mountain! Let’s go!!” And we biked and pedaled and sweat. People groaned a bit.

Then she said, “OK everyone! Now turn up the resistance really high! This is where half of the racers will fall away! Are you going to be with the winners or with the losers??”

About 5 people spoke up and said they were OK with being part of the losers. No one cheered. Grumpiness filled the room. We spun and spun.

But she went on and had us go up the mountain, a few more intervals. The general feel of crankiness in the room began to shift as we kept going. By the end we were cheering and happy (and goofy). It sure was nice to stop “climbing the mountain” at the end of the workout. “Wahoo!!” we all said. However, it was best being with the classmates all together and feeling the shift to optimism.

The experience made we wonder about my (and others) attitude about winning.

After spin class, it occurred to me that I witnessed something interesting. How do we really feel about winning? Do we really want to win? What does winning really mean?

When we first started going up the mountain and our instructor asked if we wanted to be winners, were we all thinking of Lance Armstrong? I was. The thought of him did not make me want to join his club, he just made me sad and angry. The thought made me cranky. He was not motivating.

Tucson is a place where many professional bike racers go to train in the winter and Lance Armstrong is a regular here. I am certain other people were thinking the same thing. Mixed emotions.

At first he was such a great hero and now the truth comes out that he was a cheater. What saddens me most is that if he hadn’t cheated and had continued to race through the cancer and after the cancer, I think people would have still loved him. Probably just as much. Less of us would know his story unless he had a win or two but it would still make an amazing story regardless of the wins.

We humans love a story of trial and tribulation and quite frankly, someone who beat cancer and still competed in the Tour de France is incredibly impressive. If he wouldn’t have cheated, we would have still cheered him on through losses, hoping that next time maybe he would win. And I’ll bet he would have won at some point. That win would have been a beautiful pinnacle because it would have been clear how hard this physical trial really was.

But I feel Lance didn’t understand what a winner really was in the first place. He was thinking being a winner actually meant winning a race, regardless of his authentic character. It meant being better than other people. To tell you the truth, after all of the wins he had, I sort of took for granted how amazing it must be to win the Tour de France.

He denied an authentic opportunity to be great, choosing rather to be recognized as close to god-like. But well, humans are just humans, even Lance Armstrong. Liar Liar.

Also, it reminds my of a fortune cookie a friend of mine got once that said, “No tree ever reaches the sun.” Our human condition is humbling and when we quest to prove that wrong, we find the emptiness of fame without friends and fortune with no values.

Anyway, when we finished a particularly grueling class, pretending that we made it through climbing some big mountain, we weren’t thinking about Lance Armstrong anymore. We weren’t thinking about trying to be better than our other classmates to the point were we were close to god-like. We were not trying to push our classmates out of the way to get to the top. Because being a winner does not mean being better than other people. It is personal.

In this class, we are all aging human beings with a multitude of fitness goals, and I think, or hope rather, that all of us understood that at the top of the mountain, we have just as much worth as someone like Lance. Because we won and all got through it authentically, pushing ourselves all the way. For me, my goal was to sweat and finish class without throwing up. And I did it, laughing by the end.

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Is it Worth it to Follow the Elementary School Holy Grail?

Parents, please weigh in.

Is it worth a long drive to give your kid the elementary school education that you dream of for him?

Right now, my son attends our neighborhood school. We live in the best school district in the state, so I figured I would not have to worry too much about where to send him to school. What is better than biking to and from a safe school every day? But now I am having misgivings about this district.

For one thing, “the best school district in the state” really just means the best test scores. Our district has a very strict curriculum, to which all schools closely adhere. But does that really mean that the schools are good schools? This is where I am having my questions.

I really like his teacher and the kids in the class. However, the kids have little time for discovery based learning. To me, it seems like for the teachers to keep up with the curriculum, they must teach by rote (kids at desks to learn a concept outlined by the teacher, then work with the concept in groups doing activities). It also seems to me that the teachers are out of practice when it comes to discovery based learning period, for the few times the kids were assigned large projects.

For example, there was a large research project about specific Arizona bats in which my son had to do a poster presentation. As background, my son is in first grade and learning to read and write. He does not know how to research yet. Well, OK! What a great opportunity to introduce the kids to the world of research! Teach them how to use the library. Teach them how to search on the internet (with parental supervision). Start them just starting to think about judging what a good resource is – a good book, a good website, etc.

So, I was expecting they would do some sort of teaching on the subject. Nope. I talked to several Arizona teachers, out of curiosity, about this and everyone said, “Mom, go look it up on the internet for your kid. Print stuff out. Have him read it and do the presentation.” My out of state teacher friends said “Whaaaat?? That is crazy!!”

To make matters less clear, the teachers did not explain to the children should make their poster. No discussion of “Have a Title” or “Have some pictures with captions.” There was no rubric for grading explained to kids or parents. Yes, it was graded. Parents and kids received a rubric after grading was complete.

What do you think happened with most of those projects? The parents did much of the work for their kids. Did I? I tried not to but yes, I did help, more than I was comfortable helping. I did show him the library and how to search a bit. But due to time constraints, I’m not sure how much he understood.

As you can see by my rant, I was bent out of shape about this. But then I thought, “Chill out, mommy.” Maybe the next project will be better. Well, it seems that is the way it is out here. No further research projects but several home based creative projects. All of these projects were assigned upon short notice, with little time for parents to purchase supplies. Anything that is not taught in a rote sort of way seems like it is an afterthought.

I’m disturbed by the lack of discovery based learning because when one discovers something, it really sticks with them. How many times has your mother told you something important and you didn’t listen? When you screw up that same thing enough times and discover she was right, it sticks with you. Would it have been easier to listen? Perhaps! But it didn’t make sense until you discovered the truth!

So I’ve put my son’s name on the waiting list for a number of charter schools out here. There is one very close by, one about 25 minutes away, and one 40 minutes away.

Guess which one I like the most? And which one he is most likely going to get into soon? Sigh. Yes, the one that is 40 minutes away.

Part of me thinks, stick to your neighborhood school. Your kid is happy. The people are nice, but they don’t understand active learning. This could build character for your son and for you, as long is you stay involved. A friend of mine, who is a veteran teacher, to which I hold the highest respect, said it probably doesn’t really matter until high school as long as he learns to read and write.

The other part of me is thinking, what is this teaching him about the world? I want him to have some good problem solving skills when he grows up. I don’t want him to get the idea that it is OK to be passive about his learning in this world, not one little bit! I don’t want him around passivity period.

With 7 billion people on the planet all getting more and more connected together, with all of their arguments and differences and an environment that will need our best minds to think of how to get everyone to care for it, we need all of the active, critical thinking young minds that we can get!

Early education means so much in the life of a child when it comes to developing a good attitude towards learning, so intuitively, does it really not matter?

But is it worth a 40 minute commute, which will mean I will have to seriously figure out how to spend my day (I cannot make a 40 minute commute 4 times a day)? Is it worth possibly moving?

Or possibly it is all an overreaction.

In the end, I think I need a month or two to just marinate in my thoughts. Maybe I will soften and it won’t seem like such a big deal. It’s my first parent trip through school with my kid and I just want him to have the best preparation for life that I can give him.

I hear that character is the highest predictor for success in life, not test scores. The schools I am looking at are all very discovery based learning in their approach. But which will give him the best character? Being surrounded by people who all want to discover what they learn, or by being surrounded by people who are taught to learn passively while having a mom and a dad whispering in his ear to discover, discover, discover?

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Space Month!

I meant to write just one more Santa post for 2013 but the snowball rolling down the mountain that is Christmas crushed me yet again. I will table my Santa stuff for next year with no worries. Christmas comes every year and seems to be more and more complicated for me as time goes on so there is no lack of material to fuel a future post.

As an epilogue though, I will mention that we did have a lovely Christmas and my nit-picking overly cerebral philosophizing of the holiday did not ruin my children’s enjoyment of the magic of the season. I did keep rather quiet about the subject and it seems my son has organically grown his own great joy concerning Santa and Christmas this year anyway. My daughter was still in awe of the entire experience as she is 2 1/2. I gave them many hugs and was glad to see their joy.

But now, January is here, and I am rejoicing!

For the last several years I have made January Space Month in our family. Because there is nothing but longstanding holiday traditions, decorations and activities in the kid/family world from October to December (three months is a LONG time), this stay at home mom is thrilled with a return to the everyday world. She celebrates with some good old hard science. A breath of fresh air!

This year we watched Into the Universe with Steven Hawking. For the first time, my son was simply riveted with an adult science show. Surprisingly, my daughter was as well. We found the first three episodes on Netflix streaming, Aliens, Time Travel and The Story of Everything; each held their interest throughout the entire show. It was wonderful to geek out with them for the first time. I just got the Cosmos series on Netflix snailmail, and I’m planning a few Saturday field trips to the Pima Air and Space museum, the UA Flandrau Science Center. Space Month!

Space stuff is still as interesting as it ever was to me though I feel the popular excitement over the subject has waned. Have many of us lost our patience waiting for the next big scientific discovery about the universe? I wonder if there will be, in my lifetime, a new movement of wonder about the cosmos like I felt there was in the ’80s, seen evident in series like Cosmos and movies like 2001, 2010, or for children, Space Camp, or the The Voyagers. I think we will always enjoy the entertainment of neato science fiction futures as seen in Star Trek, Star Wars, Farscape, and Babylon 5. But I suppose I am speaking more about the speculation stories that seemed like they could happen tomorrow right in one’s own backyard.

I remember when I and the children my age were so interested in becoming astronauts, wondering how to get into the space program, thinking it would be awesome to work for NASA; when so many of us looked for biographies Sally Ride and Neil Armstrong in our Scholastic Book catalogues. In the ’80s, it really seemed like in the next year or so the human race would figure out something big when it came to space. Not sure what, but something! I think that not-sure-what-ness was part of the intrigue as well.

It is unfolding slowly though, while other things are moving forward at breakneck speeds. Our popular attention is drawn elsewhere I suppose.

So perhaps I find Space Month rather relaxing after Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is a time to reflect on the largeness and wonders of our universe without having to put up any decorations. It is a time to think about bigger scientific concepts rather than just the fast moving tech and gadget wonders when I want to get my geek on this month. January is when we just listen to Steven Hawking and Carl Sagan as they paint the amazing picture of the universe.

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My War with Santa: Part 2: The Nativity

I know I sounded grumpy in the last post. Now, just fresh from watching The Polar Express with my son this year, I feel a mite less grumpy.

OK, OK, I am beginning to see that the point of the Santa movies is about creating the Santa Story as a gift in itself to modern children. I think that “The Magic of Christmas” is the magic that adults create as a gift to their children for that one special day of pure awesomeness. They go so far as to create a complete fantasyland and really want children to “believe in Santa” but I understand that it is all done with good intent.

Opening a HUGE pile of presents on Christmas day is pretty magical. As a giver of the gifts, it is the best part to see someone’s reaction when you get just the right thing that they totally were not expecting. That is just wonderful.

But still. I want to get at the heart of things when I explain them, especially when it comes to my children. Unfortunately, explaining to a kid about the heart of Christmas like peeling an onion.

It is not all about the presents. I think it is an overblown layer of the holiday but I can’t deny that it is a fun part. I’m not that grumpy.

But let’s get honest. It is a Christian holiday that coincides with a whole bunch of even more ancient holidays, as well as the end of the year, hence its depth of memory and emotion.

Last year, after watching The Polar Express, I decided to tell my son about the birth of Jesus. You’d think this story would be simple for me to tell but it was not.

Now, if one goes to a Christian church regularly, one probably would not be wrestling with telling the Nativity story behind Christmas with one’s child much at all. Every year the child would go through the Christmas at church experience. This child would already know that Christmas had the birth of Christ as well as Santa. The child might not understand the connection between the two, but the child would know both stories well.

And I think just from exposure to the world, my son had a general idea of the story of the birth of Christ. But perhaps not the details. Details make the world magical in my opinion. So much of the nativity story has strong symbols of faith and courage and spiritual asylum, I didn’t want him to miss that.

We did not have the raised-in-Christian-church advantage last year as we had not settled on a spiritual community at that point. So it was up to us to figure it out. We decided to find a good book. I had a hard time finding a good book though.

At first I thought I could just read my trusty old Bible that I’ve had since I was eight and read the King James’s English and explain it to my son in modern English along the way. But the thing is, the story as we know it is in a few different places in the Bible. The nativity story I found first was in the book of Luke, and then I found another part of the story in Matthew. Both versions meandered around. They were interesting stories but not always appropriate for a six year old. I didn’t want to read to him about the virginal birth or about Massacre of the Innocents. Editing was required.

I realized this would be much easier if I knew how to tell a story well. As a side note, I think that good storytelling is one of those dying arts that is greatly needed in child rearing. You just don’t always have the right book at hand for life’s lessons. Your words are often all you have and a good story is such an effective way to make a good point.

Anyway.

After searching on Amazon.com, I found a great children’s book that told the story very well and included an amalgamation of BOTH Luke and Matthew stories with beautiful art to boot. The Christmas Story painted by Gennady Spirin, directly took verses from Luke and Matthew from the King James Bible and put them together in a a way that told the story as is generally understood.

It is pretty good. I’ve read it to my son this year for the last few days and he loves the artwork. The language is hard for him to understand of course. Some of the old words (thee, thou, behold, it came to pass, etc.) are fun for him to explore. Herod’s part in the book is very edited and not too scary. The angel announcing to Mary that the Holy Ghost would soon appear was very confusing to him.

In the end, I think I am introducing the story to my son passably well but I am still striving for better. There’s always next year!

Next: St. Nick

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My War With Santa: Part 1

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Santa Hits First

Last year I had a major battle with the dude in red and white. Now December is here again and I find I am still in the midst of battle. Will I win? No. But I will at least get my head together enough to be able to connect with my children better over the subject of Christmas.

Here is the story.

December 2012 came, our Christmas decorations came out, as did our Christmas books, Christmas movies, Christmas baking and all of my Christmas music. My son was six and understandably ecstatic about the entire affair.

While watching Polar Express with my son, it hit me how much the Christmas story has evolved over the years. This movie goes into great detail about how Santa’s Christmas Village appears, how the elves dress, the sleigh, the roads, the buildings, the street lamps. What a picture.

Part of me was thinking, ah, the magic of childhood. I am sure he thinks this is so wonderful as well.

I mean, the images of Santa’s operation was so big, so incredible. The images and design attached to the winter holidays in these movies are spectacular.  I love the crystal and ice, the rich red and green, the cookies, the hot chocolate, the shimmer of the snow and the sparkles and sweetness everywhere.

But at the heart of it, I feel this story is all about how Christmas gifts are brought to children who deserve gifts. About how stuff magically gets under the tree as a comfort for the cold season. The happy memories associated with that sparkling time of new stuff. The writers cleverly make me tear up at the end  as they explain only children who can hear Santa’s sleigh bell ringing still understand the magic of Christmas.

And that is the concept that threw me over the edge. I think children get excited at the anticipation of the holiday, the family gatherings, the food, the gifts. They get excited believing in the story of the Magic Santa. I can see how the writers would think that is the ringing of Santa’s sleigh bells.

But at the heart of it, in this film, I think kids the message Santa = Justice = Happy Christmas Memories = Love ==> New Stuff. So wait a minute…I’m not so sure I like this!

They make a movie true to the holiday as it is often celebrated today, all right. But we as the audience are missing so much by thinking that is all that there is to it. Is this all we should pass on to our children?

Christmas is a HUGE holiday. There is SO MUCH to it. We have such deep memories of it because so much time, religious and cultural tradition, strong emotion (good and bad), business and consumerism is wrapped up together.

It is an AMAZING holiday but it is also a CRAZY holiday.

I feel like this fairly new Magic Santa character is glossing over all of the cool stuff going on behind the scenes.

So the other part of me was thinking, new Magic Santa has replaced the true magic of Christmas. And this is how Polar Express rose my ire.

Now since Tom Hanks is a major voice actor in the film, I cannot hate the movie. Tom is one of my weaknesses, he is just so darn likable.

So it is really the entire genre of Magic Santa movies and products that are getting a Bah Humbug from Lorna: The Santa Clause (all 3 movies), Santa Buddies, Jack Frost, all of the Elf on the Shelf stuff. There is more, but that is what I can come up with off of the top of my head.

Do I overthink things in general and especially when it comes to my children? Yep!

But I feel I must because I want to give them my personal best. I know they need me to be there to do my best to help them start to understand the world, to give them a handhold at the very least.

So last year I set out to explain more about Christmas to my son. I found out in quick order that explaining the entire story is no easy feat! There is a reason that the movies that make me so mad are really the only ones out there in the mainstream.

But, regardless, tilting at windmills, this started my war with Santa. I guess “war” is too strong of a term. But it is a fight to bring the other parts of the story to light.

I feel it shouldn’t be that hard. But it is.

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My Garden This Year part 3: Veggies

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Our first Asian Cucumber

For the first time ever, this summer we attempted to grow vegetables in the corner garden around the pergola. It was a blast this year!

I guess I’ve been prejudiced against growing veggies all of this time. Though I do like to eat my veggies, for years I wondered what was the point to growing your own. You can buy them from a supermarket that you like and then you don’t have to go through the difficulties of tending them.

Flowers are showier so when someone mentioned gardening to me in the past, it was this kind of gardening my mind would imagine. However, after this summer experience, I can honestly say that veggie gardening is much more fun and entertaining than flower gardening. I like both, but I think the former is more exciting where the latter is more subtle.

One good reason to grow your own veggies is that it can be important for kids to see where food comes from; that it is hard work and that it is amazing to see life develop where there was just dirt before. Plus, you get to eat what you worked on! In addition, like many kids, I figured that they would be more likely to eat more vegetables after they were excited by the entire growing process. This ended up proving true.

Another good reason is that as an adult, I found myself just as excited to see the veggies grow and enjoyed eating what we grew with relish. Yes, veggies do taste better fresh from the garden and whatever helps us eat healthier is worth the effort (and fun)!

So here is the rundown of our summer garden, started in late April:

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Excited to go into the ground in May

We planted:

Yellow Peas from seed, seeds from Native Seed Search

Asian cucumber from a seedling

Watermelon from a seedling

Yellow Squash from a seedling

An orange and a yellow pepper plant (sweet) from seedlings

A strawberry plant from seedling

A stevia from seedling

A red seedless grape vine next to a column on the pergola

And I did plant 2 flowering plants:

A queen’s wreath next to a column on the pergola

A mum that I bought from the grocery store for Easter I managed to keep alive inside till the summer

How I tended them:

I watered them every morning with a hose on the soak setting for about 2-3 minutes for each plant.

Early Summer

In the beginning it was wonderful to see everything growing up under the sun. If I was late watering, the pepper plants and the squash would look pitiful but I felt so good when they would perk up with the water.

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The Young Pepper Plants

We thought the yellow peas would never sprout because it took them a few weeks. But when they did poke up, we all cheered to see the little baby pea plants coming up. Then they started growing tall! I had to put in thin bamboo poles for them to climb. Their flowers were a sweet pink. Lovely.

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The Peas with the Pale Pink Flowers

The stevia sprung up as well and got a good foot tall before too long and I also had to give it some bamboo pole support.

The strawberry plant produced strawberries right off the bat. My 2 year old daughter ate them as soon as she saw one turning red. I had to start picking them early if anyone else wanted to have one.

Soon the squash, watermelon and cucumber were flowering. Amazing to see every morning! So cheerful! The grape vine was speeding up the pergola. So cool to see it climb. The squash soon produced little squashes about 3 inches. I ate one but it was too early I guess because it tasted chalky. I left the rest to get bigger. I did the same to the first cucumber.

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Flowering Squash

A watermelon grew in about a month and about 5 inches in diameter. We harvested it and it was nice and sweet.

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The Watermelon Vine Very Happy With A Spider Tenant

The queens wreath was not doing much and the pepper plants seemed out of sorts. I gave the peppers more water and they got better. But it took them a long time to flower. The queens wreath was just hanging out for the beginning of summer though.

Then I went to Wisconsin for 2 weeks to visit my parents with the kiddos and left Jeremy to water the plants.

Midsummer

Well, when I got back the yellow peas and the squash were toast. So sad! Jeremy’s watering habits were different and the summer sun in Tucson of course was unforgiving. I was able to save the cucumber and we got 4 HUGE cucumbers from the plant.

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One of the Huge Cucumbers

The watermelon made 2 more watermelons but they needed longer to grow than the first and I harvested them too early. The strawberry plant stopped producing. The grape vine stayed the same height as when I left.

But the peppers were just getting going! Even though the peppers plants stayed small and grew small peppers, they produced 2 or 3 a week towards the end of summer. My son loved eating the peppers the most of all.

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The First Pepper to Grow – Adorable!

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One of the Peppers Turning Orange – Beautiful! 

The stevia was also thriving in the heat and kept growing. Towards the end of August it started to flower. It was about 4 feet tall by then.

The queen’s wreath went crazy and climbed all the way up the pergola and grew lovely sweet pink flowers. Very pretty!

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The Queen’s Wreath Growing to the Top of the Pergola

End of Summer and Fall

So then harvest time, September and October, which is about now. Well, the cucumber and watermelon passed away in early September. The leaves just stopped soaking up the water and they died. The strawberry plant is still hanging out as is the grape vine.

The peppers are still producing though a little slower. The queen’s wreath is also slowing down and the little link flowers are drying up.

I harvested the entire stevia plant last week. I picked off the nice green leaves and dried them on a sheet in the sun in batches for 3 consecutive days. I would have done it all at once but my mornings do not allow for 2 hours of leaf picking as required with a 2 year old running around and potty training.

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Harvesting the Stevia – Evening Photo, Time to Take in the Dried Leaves!

The mum, which I haven’t written much about, is of interest right now. It was a leafy green shrub which was in a sorry state when I planted it from its tiny pot, but got gradually larger over the summer. Now it is plumping up now that the weather is cooler. It has hundreds of buds waiting to burst. Can’t wait to see the flowers. I forgot what color they are, it has been so long.

I feel that we did become personally involved with this garden and it was a good experience. It was a lot of work and I think that I will wait until next summer to have a garden this large again. In Tucson, I COULD start all over with a winter garden. But I need a little break from the excitement. Also, an irrigation system would help motivate me to grow more throughout the year. But we will work on that in 2014.

Until next year, I think this is the end of the gardening posts while I go inside and start my bake-o-palooza for the holidays.

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