Free Garden Labor

My kids are now 10, 12 and 14 and I’m just starting to reap the benefits of having kids…..FREE LABOR!!!! On Thanksgiving weekend I still had a shit-ton of tulip bulbs to get in the ground. If anyone needs to know the quantity of shit-ton, I think it falls somewhere between 500 and I lost count.

Here I was with a lot of clean up and planting to do, a Christmas tree in the house and I was running out of time when a light bulb went off! Well, it was more like a tulip bulb. I said in my most excited voice “Let’s all go out and do it as a family!” (insert moans and groans here) Let’s revise the question: “You are going to help me plant the bulbs so we can decorate the Christmas tree. If you don’t help with the bulbs, no Christmas tree for you!” So we all bundled up, grabbed some rakes, shovels and started opening boxes of flower bulbs.

planting

A few things occurred to me as I was half listening to the 14 year old complain about having to do this “horrible” job. 1) When I was his age, I had already been mowing the lawn for 5 years and knew how to change the oil in the 76 Monte Carlo  and 2) complaining is an effective way to annoy someone so much that they just need you to go away. He’s either really shitty, or really clever (likely a combination of both). I still made him do it – I just walked away with my headphones on and ignored him….like a teenager. Boom!

korbin-having-fun

My kids have been helping me garden for years. My 10 year old daughter is the most interested and asks me a bunch of questions and is always offering to help (her attention span is about 10 minutes into helping before she’s done). My 12 year old son will do whatever job I ask, and he will do it really well. My 14 year old….well, we already covered that one. My dogs kept grabbing the bulbs and running away with them which made all three kids laugh and chase them around the yard. I love every one of my little weirdos. They make my heart happy and now they make my landscape pretty.

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Regardless of the complaining, dog thievery and a couple of situations with dog poop on a shoe, we had a really good time outside planting bulbs. The kids planted while I decorated the porch with evergreen pots, garland and the ‘big balls’ (as my husband likes to call them). Because we did it together, it only took 2 hours and we are ready for spring and Christmas!

porch

ready-for-christmas

 

 

A New Little Flower

Nothing is sweeter than a new baby! There is so much love and hope for the future bundled into a tiny package of coos, smiles and poops. I fondly remember the newborn baby days of my three ducks. These days I am so exhausted I wish they’d get back inside me where I was only physically exhausted versus emotionally, physically and financially exhausted. Sometimes I would trade the figurative crap I deal with on a daily basis today for sleepless nights, sore nipples and the shitloads (literally) of diapers of their baby days.

At the ages of 8, 10 and 12, my ducks are awesome, but I admit I am bias. They are funny, happy, talented and smart. It’s amazing that three small humans can send me to tears with love….or to tears of ‘wtf was I thinking.’ In those ‘wtf’ moments when I need a large glass of wine and a time out, I reflect on our history and how wonderful those baby days were. Their baby days keep me grounded when we face drama, attitude, bad smells and the incredible amount of money that seems to pour out of my bank account and into their futures.

My daughter’s soccer coach and her awesome husband just welcomed their 2nd girl into their family. What a joy to be able to visit their little flower today! While I was holding her, I gave her some rules to follow about being the 2nd girl of the family. I hope she remembers them, but I suspect they are rules of the sisterhood that are somehow written into our stars. They are really important things like 1) ‘borrowing’ your older sister’s things is expected 2) as the youngest, the rules don’t apply and 3) always ask ‘Can I come too?!’ whenever big sister goes anywhere….and when she says no, go anyway. As the little sister she’s going to be the most annoying and wonderful best friend her big sister will ever have. I know this because I am both the younger sister and the big sister.

Bloom on little one! We are looking forward to watching you grow! And someday your big sister will be excited too….I promise. 🙂

Welcome to the world little Ellie-Mae!

Welcome to the world little Ellie-Mae!

Winter Wander-land

As a work at home mom, I’m used to getting my shorties up in the morning, off to school and home from school. These 4 hours of my day, to quote Charles Dickens, are “the best of times and…the worst of times….” Last week (thankfully before Juno hit the east coast) I was in New Jersey for work. I feel VERY blessed that I have the best job in the world. I feel even more blessed that my kiddos miss me when I am away!

Upon arriving at the airport, I texted my 8 year old (she texts from my iPad) to let her know that I landed safely. Kids are so honest in a raw and super cool way:

Aylas Text

Despite my suitcase arriving slightly later than I did, I did not die….and to an 8 year old girl, that is grounds for true gratitude. I can appreciate the simplicity of that. The week consisted of texts flying at me from 3 different directions between the hours of 7-9pm all about how daddy isn’t doing things correctly. These just made me laugh from the comforts of my quiet hotel room.

I had a great trip because 1) I love to travel for too many reasons to list here in this particular blog, 2) the meetings were very productive and 3) it’s important to be there. Travel also makes me miss my kids; and let’s be honest….absence really DOES make the heart grow fonder. However, I think re-entry into a busy family of 5 is harder than total submersion 100% of the time.

At my fabulous job we just wrapped up the winter indoor selling season and moving into photography for next year as well as gearing up for the spring-planting season. I feel compelled to tell you if you’ve never grown paperweights or amaryllis, I suggest you put it on your 2015 top 10 things to do list. If you don’t have a list, make one RIGHT NOW and put this as #1. I promise you won’t regret it!

Look for some winter blooms from me as I intend to plant some amaryllis soon! Bloom on, friends.

indoor blooms

So This Happened Over Winter

It’s been a REALLY long winter. According to the calendar spring started last Thursday, but according to my thermometer, that’s a big fat lie. This winter my dog and I gained 8 pounds each, we broke snow and cold records across the state and there are still piles of snow covering my garden. To add insult to injury, it’s snowing right now (again) for the third season in a row. My very insightful son said to me this morning “This would be really pretty if it was November, but now it’s just mean.” As usual, he’s astute, straightforward and right on. I’d like to think he gets that from his mom.

Despite the cold, lack of sunshine and my personal irritability, winter can also be kind of nice. Cold days and being snowed in are good ways to enjoy some (forced) downtime, unless you’re into extreme winter sports and love the snow…which I am not because my favorite outdoor winter activity is going inside. The thought crossed my mind that maybe spring won’t come I embrace winter and the good things that happened. So, here are a few of my favorite winter moments.

Snow and ice can really be quite pretty.

Winter in the Park

Winter walk through the park, before the ice froze.

After the ice storm

After an ice storm, the snow fell.

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Frozen nature is beautiful.

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Ice on Lake Michigan.

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Snowbanks taller than my 2nd grader!

I played A LOT of indoor soccer with a pretty cool group of people. We started off really bad, but now we don’t suck. We aren’t great, but at least we don’t suck and I’ve found my groove and starting scoring some pretty sweet goals. It’s great exercise once you get past the fact that I’m twice the age and ten times less the skill of the other players in our ‘beginner’ league. Ha! Beginner league my arse….I’ve learned soccer players LIE just because they are more concerned about winning. Case in point: scoring a goal with your head, backwards, is NOT a beginner move. It’s been a lot of fun though!

Can't play outside, but playing inside is dangerous! That's a soccer ball imprint on my leg.

Can’t play outside, but playing inside is dangerous! That’s a soccer ball imprint on my leg.

Winter is a great time to visit our local indoor botanical gardens. The humidity feels good and it’s always decorated so nicely.

A trip to the Botanical Gardens was needed!

A trip to the Botanical Gardens was needed!

Watching the water and birds in the warmth of the tropical gardens.

Watching the water and birds in the warmth of the tropical gardens.

I grew amaryllis and paperwhites all winter and had blooms from January up until the first week of March.

Amaryllis Nymph opening up!

Amaryllis Nymph opening up!

Pleasantly surprised by Minerva. My least favorite in photos, it bloomed beyond my expectations.

Pleasantly surprised by Minerva. My least favorite in photos, it bloomed beyond my expectations.

My favorite Amaryllis - Lagoon!

My favorite Amaryllis – Lagoon!

I cooked a lot. Maybe that’s why I gained the 8 pounds (or it was for survival, I needed the extra weight because -14 degrees could kill a thinner person). On top of cooking a lot, we also ate a lot of really yummy food!

Comfort food….simmering bacon jam!

Comfort food….simmering bacon jam!

Warming up with a giant goblet of his favorite caramel salted browie sundae!

Warming up with a giant goblet of his favorite caramel salted browie sundae!

At the end of the day, there was nothing warmer than the fireplace and a plush heating blanket.

London Le Chat warming up in his favorite spot in the house.

London Le Chat warming up in his favorite spot in the house.

What were your favorite winter moments?

Life Grows On

Does anyone else feel like being thankful was really crammed down our throats this year? It was a weekend blitz of BE THANKFUL OR ELSE! followed by BUY NOW BECAUSE IT WILL BE GONE TUESDAY! I needed to pause and found a quiet place at mass on Sunday night with my daughter. The first Sunday of Advent service was thought provoking and made me seriously consider how I want my life to grow in the coming years. That can be an overwhelming thought when you consider how your personal decisions effect so many other lives. So instead of making a plan, I downloaded pictures while I thought about stuff.

Despite how busy and long the weekend was, I’m glad I got to spend time with these crazies. We had fun, spiked with little bit of family drama (why can’t everyone just get along)?! I am blessed knowing that no matter what direction my life goes, this group will always be my roots, keep me grounded and help me grow along the way.

WE LAUGHED!

Cousins laughing over deviled eggs.

Cousins laughing over deviled eggs.

WE DROOLED…. (okay, maybe only Maggie drooled)

Mmmm....turkey.....

Mmmm….turkey…..

WE DRANK! (I may have drank a lot)

Spiked hot carmel apple cider

Spiked hot carmel apple cider

OH MY…..we ate this. A whole lot of this.

Golden roasted turkey

Golden roasted turkey

We just hung out. 🙂 Maggie and my dad did a lot of this when they weren’t in the kitchen looking for ‘just a taste.’

Grandpa and Maggie chilling out

Grandpa and Maggie chilling out – they take this very seriously as you can see.

We searched for the perfect tree….

On a tree hunt!

On a tree hunt!

WE FOUND IT!

The three best blessings in my life

The three best blessings in my life

We decorated it.

Oh! Christmas Tree!

Oh! Christmas Tree!

I hope however you spent the holidays, you lived in the moment, filled your bellies with food and your souls with laughter.

Worst Blogger Ever

Hi, my name is Marlene and I’m the world’s worst blogger. I think there should be an award for Worst Blogger Ever and it should come in the form of fermented grapes. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about my blog. I think about topics all the time and say to the other voices in my head “I should totally write about that!” to which I respond “YES! You should!” to which I respond again, “I’ll do that tomorrow.”

Tomorrow’s list very rarely ever gets done and I cannot believe I let my blog’s one year birthday go by without so much as a smash cake to celebrate. I thought about it though. I know…shocking to think about the blog and do nothing about it. I realize this is a theme in my life….There never seems to be enough time to do the things I love to do for ME. There’s always another volunteer obligation, another load of laundry, another errand to run, another activity to drive my kids to. I know I need to be more aware of the things that are important to me and only me. I am going to thin out my excess baggage so that I can more fully enjoy the things I love. I know this will take time because I didn’t get this busy overnight. I’ve done it over years and I’m prepared to face what my life is if I’m not filling it with busyness.

This morning I stumbled across Brian Gardner’s blog post, Packing Light and Unloading the Excess baggage in Your Life. Sometimes someone can write something so fresh that it gives your soul the boost of oxygen it needs. That happened to me this morning and I thought about my kids, my unfinished fall garden projects and my blog. I started this blog with the intention of writing about all things I love that grow. I intend to keep it blooming.

Here’s a visual recap of the moments that made my heart bloom over the past couple of months. I’m moving on from from feeling guilty about not updating my blog and I’m going to make more room for writing, gardening and growing my children.

Summer was GREAT. Hot days by the pool, gardens in full bloom, warm nights, sun-kissed skin and bright skies.

Summer

Summer birthday, summer beauty!

Dahlia Pablo

Summer color in full bloom

Fall was fun! Cooler days, fall bloomers, Halloween, practicing for orchestra concerts and of course planting my bulbs in anticipation for spring.

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I have no idea where the sunflowers in my garden came from, but this rogue bloom brightened up this busy bees day and mine!

halloween decor

Cornstalks, mums and dried liatris from my garden are a great way to make Halloween decorations a little stylish.

cute witch

Cutest. Witch. Ever.

Pierce

He doesn’t sound like a dying cat! I’m truly impressed with my little violinist.

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One landscape bed and 500 bulbs later. Multiply that by 5 and that’s how much bulb planting I did this fall.

Winter is on it’s way, I can feel it in the air (and duh, it is the end of November…I’m just saying it now FEELS like winter). The first frost was beautiful! My daughter calls it frosting and I’ve never had the heart to correct her because it’s incredibly cute. I hope when she’s 20 she still calls it frosting!

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‘Frosting’ looks so pretty on dahlias.

raspberry bushes frost

Frosty raspberry leaves.

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IMG_1888Any tips on balancing life with taking care of your own soul are welcome!

The End of Summer and a Contest!

The last weekend of summer is here. It’s bittersweet for me.

Summer is my absolute most favorite season of the year. My skin gets darker, my hair gets lighter, I feel warmer, my spirit feels sunnier and I get to relax and enjoy my coffee in peace while my kids sleep in until I decide I’m ready to make them breakfast. I have also had ENOUGH of summer and I’m pretty sure my 3 little ducks have too. They are fighting and picking at each other like cage fighters in a championship match over who wins the lifetime supply of fresh brownies. About two weeks ago I came up with a new household rule “Nobody is allowed to touch anyone until you no longer live under my roof.” It didn’t have the results I had hoped to achieve (I needed to add a clause about the car too). I threw up my hands, waved the white flag, grabbed my headphones and a glass of wine. My patience pockets full of ‘the good mom’ are completely empty.

In 4 sleeps (we count sleeps as we anxiously wait for an exciting day) I will be singing “The Wheels on the Bus” like a full-crazed person in my head, as I solemnly wave goodbye to my little darlings. The bus will pull away and their summer days of messy hair, baths at the pool and Minecraft are over. In 4 sleeps I will be trading a chronically messy house and sibling fights for packing lunches and pretending like I know 6th grade math (there’s an app for that, in case anyone else has discovered they maxed out at 5th grade math like me).  I. AM. THRILLED!!!!  I wish I could bottle this happiness up for next May when I’m tired of homework and packing healthy lunches that they don’t eat. I’m going to stay in the moment and chuckle at what how we are creatures of change always looking for the next shift. “Live in the moment” –  whatever…I’m counting down my 4 sleeps!

In addition to my count down, I am also thinking of TULIPS, DAFFODILS and ALLIUMS….OH MY! My favorite bulb company (ok, I’m bias) is hosting a Facebook Sweepstakes and you could win $100 to shop on their site. The kids are going back to school so treat yourself to a pedicure and a chance to win (the pedicure is on you, the chance to win is on them).

If you love bulbs (or just want to try them for the first time), this contest is for you! Just LIKE Longfield Gardens Facebook page, then register to win here.

Here’s a glimpse of my favorite varieties this fall. What are your favorite fall planted, spring blooming bulbs?

Ornamental Onion Allium Globemaster from Longfield Gardens

 Tulip Double Late Parade of Pink Mix from Longfield Gardens

Daffodil Narcissus Naturalizing Mix from Longfield Gardens

Tulip Tulip Darwin Hybrid Apricot Impression from Longfield Gardens*Photos courtesy of Longfield Gardens, LLC  •  All rights reserved