How Does Your Garden Grow?

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I’m glad squash flowers are so lovely. So far we have one small zucchini and no pumpkins to speak of. At least I’ve been able to enjoy looking at the blooms.

For a while now I’ve been meaning to post these pictures of our garden and of the children in the garden. Some of these are almost a month old! I also thought it would be fun to write updates on what’s new with each of the kids. But my blogging motivation has been pretty low of late. So now I’m lazily killing two birds with one stone by combining the two into a massive photo essay post. This is what we’re up to these days: growing a few vegetables in our halfhearted garden, growing gorgeous children in our wholehearted home.



Today it seemed like the walking to crawling ratio was about 90-10. He’s pretty nimble on those legs. He can stand up in the middle of the room (or in the middle of the yard) without holding on to anything while carrying a toy or book or blankie (or pot lid or bowl or name kitchen item he probably shouldn’t have). He can change course, turn around and walk the other way, walk around something in his way.

Ben examines the mint that is taking over the garden bed.

We’ve got a new naptime/bedtime routine for Ben. I sit in my favorite rocker and hold him in my lap and read a big pile of board books to him. Then I carry him to the office and put him in bed. No more trying to rock him to sleep; but now we’re easing the transition from play time to sleep time with a gentle slowing down routine. Most of the time when we get to his bed, he goes down with no fuss. At bedtime we follow up the board books with a blessing with holy water and then we go around and bless everyone in the house and get goodnight kisses.

Ben wants to help water the garden.

The past few days Ben’s started walking up to me around his nap time. He grabs onto my skirt to get my attention, reaches his hands up to me, and says, “Night-night.” I look at the clock and note that, hey, it really is your nap time. I’ve never had a child tell me when it is time to take a nap. This is very strange.

Ben imitates his sisters, tries to climb up the slide.

Ben has also decided that he really likes cow’s milk. He drinks two or three sippy cups a day. Very different from his sisters. Bella didn’t start drinking milk till she was 2. Sophie still doesn’t drink more than a few sips in a day. He’s also learned how to say, “milk”.

“Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”

Ben has a great sense of humor. He giggles at the word “spluck” in the board book One Duck Stuck. He thinks I’m funny. Enough said.

With a little encouragement from his sisters.

Ben loves roaming about in the back yard. His little legs are covered with scratches and bug bites and he doesn’t care. He can climb up and down the back step with ease. He eats dirt and sand from the sandbox. He follows his sisters around or he wanders off and does his own thing. I love the fact that most nights he needs a bath because he’s been playing hard.

“Hey, Mom, watch me!”
Sometimes when I sing Ben makes a sort of humming sound as if he’s trying to sing along. He also bounces up and down when I sing.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

When he hears me start to play a You Tube video, Ben comes rushing to my computer and demands to be picked up so he can see the screen. He can be very insistent.

“Once more unto the breech!”


Sophie with squash leaves.

Sophie has developed a little bit of a stutter. My brief online research has led me to believe this is very common at her age. And it often happens to children who are very smart. Their mouth can’t keep up with their thoughts, or something like that. I’m not too worried. Every time we go to the pediatrician (even if it’s for Ben or Bella) the doctor remarks on how articulate Sophie is.

Sophie tries the mint.

Sophie is very verbal. She loves to narrate books to herself. Her rendition of Caps for Sale is hilarious. She interpolates her own ideas and adds all sorts of details. For example she reads the bluish grass on one page as water and so tells a story about the nice water.

Startled Sophie

Sophie and I are reading The Wind in the Willows as her nap time read aloud. We’re almost done. I think we might go right back to the beginning and start again when we finish. Love that book.

Sisters in the garden.
Sisters in the garden.

Sophie continues to be the most adventuresome eater. Tonight she asked for and ate a bowl of salsa. With a spoon, as if it were soup.

"Don't touch, Sophie," says Bella.
“Don’t touch, Sophie,” says Bella.

Sophie imitates Bella in everything, even to the names of her imaginary children. They all have the same names as Bella’s imaginary children. So Sophie refers to her daughter as “My Dane.”(Jane)

Bella instructs Sophie.
Bella instructs Sophie.

Sophie continues to be a little less physical than Bella, a bit less adventuresome. She still adores sitting in the swing and would happily have someone push her for an hour or more at a time.

Sophie climbs.

Sophie insists on wearing Bella’s pajamas. I don’t think we even have any size two summer pjs. She refuses to wear anything that Bella hasn’t worn recently. Some nights they even split a pair, Bella wearing the top and Sophie wearing the bottoms. She looks a bit silly in the oversized clothes; but it makes her happy to be like her big sis.

“Peek-a-boo!” says Sophie.

When Sophie and Bella fight over a toy or book, it is usually Sophie who gives in when I plead for them to share. She can be very generous. Or maybe she’s just used to being bullied.

Sophie climbs the slide.

Sophie often mimics Bella. She borrows phrases and dialogue scripts. So it often sounds as if she’s in a “why?” stage. But she really isn’t, I don’t think because there isn’t persistent with it the same way Bella was. She asks and then moves on to something else after she’s got an answer. It’s not exactly just a sound she’s making, there is real intent there; but it’s also not the same developmental phase.

Look at me!



Bella examines the pepper plants.

I realized recently that Bella no longer “reads” aloud (in contrast to Sophie who always narrates her books). She sits quietly and turns the pages, examining them closely.

Contemplative Bella

Bella doesn’t seem to be ready to read yet, though she is interested in letter sounds. Sometimes out of the blue she’ll ask me what words begin with P or C or M. She’s occasionally interested in trying to write her letters. I’m not pushing her though. It will happen when it happens. For now, I’m just happy she’s a bookworm.

Bella munches on some mint leaves.

Bella’s very interested in asking me what a book is about. We finish the book and she almost always asks, “What’s it about?” Usually I turn the question on her and ask her what it’s about. When she says “I don’t know.” I ask more leading questions: “Is it about flowers? Clowns? Dogs?” She laughs and says no to a few of those and then suddenly is able to tell me a little more.

Brown-eyed girl.

Some of her current favorite books are the Mike Venezia series of biographies of famous artists. She especially loves the Mary Cassatt book.  One night we’d just finished reading it and she said, “I just love this book.” I started asking her about it, about Mary Cassatt. “What was Mary Cassatt’s favorite thing to paint?” I asked. “I don’t know.” “Did she paint flowers? Soldiers? Mountains?” I threw out a few suggestions. She stopped me, “Stop asking questions. I need to think.” Slowly she paged through the book. Then she said. “I think I think her favorite thing to paint was children. And mothers.” Bravo Bella!

Bella helps pull weeds.

Bella is sometimes so thoughtful and helpful. She loves mothering Ben and Sophie. The other day I’d given each girl a bag of Cheerios to much on and Sophie was upset because for some reason she wanted the bag that Bella had. I didn’t realize what the problem was and was getting more and more frustrated with Sophie’ tantrum. Then Bella offered to exchange bags with Sophie, calming the storm. I praised her for her insight, thoughtfulness and generosity.

Bella waters the tomatoes.

Another book Bella loves is the Fabulous Flying Journey. It’s a chapter book in large picture book format with full color illustrations on every page and so is perfect for the non-reader who has a longer attention span for listening to narrative and yet who likes to look at pictures as she listens to the story. It’s an adventure tale about three children who travel around the world with their eccentric uncle in a hot air balloon called the Belladonna. They are searching for their uncle’s twin brother who is lost. Along the way they meet and chat with various animals, learning about the animals and their habitats. (The uncle is a scientist who made a sort of magic potion that allows the kids to talk to animals. Frankly I’d rather they made it magic rather than pseudo-science; but so far that’s my only gripe with the book’s premise.) The book’s end papers are world maps with the adventurers route traced out on them. The book has the potential to be a fun lesson in geography and natural history; though we’re not really looking at the maps to track the journey.

Ben and Sophie watch Bella with the hose.

Bella has evidenced a wonderful persistence with Fabulous Flying Journey. She’s the one who found the book on the shelf and brought it to me to read. I read part of a chapter once or twice a week. We’re not consistent. And she always marks the place we leave off and that’s where we start the next reading. No re-reading necessary. She will sit for an hour at a time flipping through the book on her own, studying the pictures. I’ve been very impressed with her level of engagement and her ability to follow the story as interrupted as it has been.

Bella at work.

Bella loves helping with the garden. I really wish we were growing more things, mainly so she could have more tasks to do. She helps water the plants, she helps gather the produce. One of her favorite things is being asked to gather a bowl full of mint leaves for us to use in cooking or in iced tea.

Bella sprays the beans.

I figure just having a garden will teach her more about the life cycle of plants than any science textbook. Though we do have this lovely picture book of the life cycle of an apple tree. It’s very detailed about the parts of the flower and the process of fertilization. Bella has absorbed quite a bit from the book and will point out sepals, petals, pollen. She and Sophie helped push the seeds into the ground and have been thrilled to see how those seeds produce plants that themselves bear seed-bearing fruit. How wonderful to watch the discoveries she’s making!

Bella with hose.

I feel bad that often Bella gets the leftover bits of my attention. Because she has learned in some small ways to delay gratification and she does understand why Mama can’t read that book to you right now, it is easy for me to put Ben and Sophie first and then tend to Bella with whatever leftover energy I have. On one hand, I’m grateful at her increased maturity. On the other hand, I’m sad that she has to do without. I do try to make sure I give her some one-on-one attention each day. Not as much as she’d like; but what I can do.

Bella with the first bowl of green beans.

I also remind myself of those days when she was a toddler rattling about in our apartment all by herself and how we’d sigh and say, “Bella needs siblings.” Now she does and loves playing with them. She’s a lovely and sometimes frustrating mixture of independence and neediness, as I suppose most of us are. I can start to see glimmers of the girl she’s growing into and it excites me. Although I’m not ready to begin formal schooling with her this fall, I’m thinking maybe I’d like to find a way to add a little bit of preschoolish structure to her days. Contemplating where that might take us. I’m drawn to Montessori philosophy but not to the need for materials or the need for so much preparation by the parent/instructor. Just looking at other people’s Montessori preschool setups exhausts me.

Bella loves beans.

And now I figure this post should count for about two weeks worth of blogging. If I weren’t so lazy, I’d divide it into three posts and have them publish on three different days; but I’ve already spent too much time on this as it is. So it goes.


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  • Melanie, it was SO AWESOME to meet you! smile I love how you call the weekend a foretaste of the heavenly banquet…so, SO true. smile

    Was Simcha there on Saturday? I am going to seriously have to harm myself if I missed the chance to meet her…

  • Hmm… it seems you got a picture of the one Dell laptop at the whole conference wink

    It’s too bad I didn’t meet you this year – would love to say hi next year if you’re there!

  • Melanie, I so wished we could have stuck around – you’re so easy to talk to, I felt like we had known each other for years.  Irene has mostly forgiven us for making her leave her happy home, but she’ll never forget.  The picture is so funny! 

    Sarah, we were only in Boston for a couple of hours on Sunday – didn’t make it to the conference proper at all.  Maybe next year!  I would love to meet you!

  • Sarah,

    You can see Simcha in profile in a couple of my photos on flickr. Please don’t harm yourself, though. I would be very sad.


    Yes there did seem to be a preponderance of Apple products. Likewise I hope we get to say hi next year. I’m afraid I was hiding in the back with the kids most of the time. 

    Simcha, Likewise, I felt like I could have talked to you forever. I hope Irene got lots of sleep on the way home. I know my kiddos have been a bit cranky today as they are still recovering from Saturday. I only wish the pictures were less blurry. Any time you guys want to come south to the Boston area, you’re more than welcome to come by for a visit.


  • Melania, So fun to meet you! I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to hold Isabel—I didn’t want to bug you since you had Ben. I can’t get over the adorable-ness of your children. What a sweet, sweet family you and Dom have!