Gardening in Winter

A garden in winter has always occupied a soft spot in my heart. Probably because I feel like it is so often a reflection of my art. Such potential! Such stirrings beneath the surface! So much happening in secret places where no one can see.

Currently I sit with my artwork in a season of what can only be called winter rest. My writing, my photos, my weaving, my knitting, my stitching, my cooking….all of my offerings sit quietly biding their time until the next spring. It is difficult to string together the simplest sentence after months of interrupted sleep, let alone a weaving rich with allegorical meaning and significance, or a thoughtfully executed Paleo Thanksgiving dinner for my whole family to sit down to together (neither of which, by the way, has gotten much more than a tender glance from me this entire year).


Last week was unusually warm in our little nook of the Rocky Mountains. The kids were running around in short-sleeves with flip flops. They did not want chili for dinner. They went Christmas caroling without their coats. I had worked hard to get the Pumpkin down for a nap in his crib and debated what to do with my hour of two hands and my entire body to myself. I went to the garden.

I mowed the grass that had grown slowly long and matted by previous snow storms. The baby still slept. I swept the patio and drew out the dead leaves from the corners. I pulled the plants, long since bitten by the frost, out of the pots. He slept on.

I ventured down pea gravel paths farther from the house. I pulled the poppies that flopped dishearteningly over the borders. I swept off the Adirondack chairs and plumped up the cushions. I sculpted beds of seed heads into inviting displays of winter interest. And finally, I grabbed the broom and swept the dead leaves from the pea gravel. And still, the baby slept.

The Sweet Pea said, “This looks like something from Martha Stewart!” and the Peanut said, “We should have a garden party!”


I think about these things as I sit on newly-plumped cushions on a newly-swept patio waiting for the baby to wake up. Because it seems so ridiculous that anything in my yard could look like Martha Stewart, or that anyone should even consider a garden party in my garden–especially in December. I am a sour-faced grown-up, grown too practical with age. I am the elderly neighbor frowning and sighing as I rake up leaves that have fallen from the neighbor’s tree onto the wrong side of the property line. I have swept and sculpted and mowed and pulled, but to what end? Has it all been to simply tidy up and look presentable? Surely not.

Then the thought of the long winter of my art comes to mind, and I know what I’ve been doing. I’ve been nurturing, exploring, uncovering whatever it is that happens to gardens, to artwork, in winter. I know that a winter garden is not dead, but merely a garden at rest. I know there is still beauty, that it still speaks, and I know it is still worth caring for. But it took a couple of comments from my daughters to show me that it’s more than that. It’s also worth celebrating.

They found beauty and joy, celebration and delight where I found mediocrity. “It’ll do until something prettier comes along in the spring,” were my thoughts. But they saw the pages of Martha Stewart and parties. There’s something here that I need to learn. About joy, and happiness, and contentment with what is, rather than anticipating something “better” that’s coming.

The baby wakes up. My time for pondering in analytical awareness is over. I mentally dig a hole for these thoughts in my winter garden, cover them tenderly and leave them to their winter’s rest.

A Joke from the Peanut

The Peanut tries really hard to match her big brothers and sister tit for tat. Lately, she’s been struggling to keep up with the joke-telling. Here’s a recent example:

Peanut: What did the pig say to the laundry basket?
Sweetie Pie: Um….I have no idea. What?
Peanut: “You snore!” (pause for effect) Do you get it??

We didn’t, but we still thought it was funny.


As if the miracle of being born the first time into an earthly family wasn’t enough, there is the miracle of the invitation to be born a second time into God’s family. Generally speaking, our priest doesn’t “dunk” for baptisms, but his liberal hand with the water could hardly be called “sprinkling”. We like to think of our kiddos as being “dunkled” into the body of Christ.


I’ve always wished that I’d hand-crafted some gorgeous baptismal gown with hand-smocking and crocheted lace, but I just always seem to prefer to make things that get more use than once in a lifetime. Still, I managed to make a onesie for the occasion.


And in spite of the unfortunate lighting situation, I had to share this last photo because the Pumpkin looks so pleased to be celebrating his new extended-family.



It’s my opinion that if you are a newly minted babe making your way in the world, you’ll be greatly helped (or at least entertained) by having some older siblings around. They can be relied upon to provide you with all of the necessary petting, kissing, and snuggling.


And they’ll be the first to introduce you to things you are too young to accomplish on your own, and that your Mama and Papa would, in their wisdom and maturity, not attempt to teach you. Like hanging over the back of the couch:


And you can count on them to share things with you that are way beyond your age and development, but are still fascinating even if you don’t understand them. Like books by Alexander Dumas.


Yes, the Pumpkin’s life would be pretty boring if it wasn’t for his siblings. Then again, if it wasn’t for his siblings he might be able to finish a nap. Ah well. No loss without some gain.


A Nursing Song

Some time ago I was clicking my way through blog-land and found this pithy quote from a knowing dad:

“Parenting a newborn is like playing Uno with a five-year-old. As soon as you start to think you’re winning, the rules change.”

So true.


I had just figured out a workable sleeping arrangement for the Pumpkin and me (not to mention the Sweetie Pie husband who had been ending up on the couch night after night) when the Pumpkin decided to change the rules. Since the Pumpkin is my fifth newborn and I have some experience behind me, I know that this rule-changing can cause great bitterness, strife, and resentment in me.

How to keep yourself from becoming uselessly angry at your sweet baby? Sing a song that reminds you what a privilege it is to have him in your arms. I find myself singing the song below repeatedly as I nurse and rock and sway and bounce away the hours through the sleepless nights. You can click below to hear it, just pretend you’re rocking a warm, squishy baby and not being sold on the idea of a “wholesome” artificial beverage.

Wives and Porcupines

A few nights ago, we were having a rare evening of family togetherness. Everyone was sitting in the same room, at the same time, and no one was poking anyone else or messing with someone else’s Legos.

The Sweetie Pie, who has been studying the history of King David, mused aloud about Solomon and all of his wives and concubines (over 700!) This led to discussion among the kiddos about how many children Solomon may have had, which (naturally) led to discussion about how many birthdays he had to remember.

The Bean: It must have been, like, three birthday parties every day!
The Sweet Pea: Plus he had all of his wives’ birthdays to remember!
The Pickle: And don’t forget about all of those porcupines!

The Pumpkin

Our newest family member has been given his nickname. The little man has been dubbed The Pumpkin. Actually, his complete nickname is Slice of Pumpkin Pie with Whipped Sweet Cream Half Eaten Up. But we usually just leave it at Pumpkin.


He has spent the past two weeks learning important life skills. Such as how-to-burp-without-letting-milk-come-out-of-your-nose (he’s almost mastered this one) and how-to-hold-your-hands-in-front-of-your-mouth-so-that-you-can-suck-on-your-fingers (still working on this one). And the very important how-to-sleep-without-needing-to-have-your-mother-touching-you (this one’s going to take a while).


It’s taken me five babies to learn how to savor life with a newborn. The snuggles and coos are the delightful parts that others are happy to share in but I’m unwilling to give up, but the 3 a.m. colic is the part I can’t get anyone else to take. Even so, I am drinking deeply from the sweetness of my days (and nights) with the Pumpkin.


Labor Day

Turns out baby was waiting to make a grand and dramatic entrance. On Labor Day. We should have seen that one coming. Shouldn’t there be some kind of bonus prize for laboring on Labor Day?

photo 1

After a few extra days in the hospital to correct some blood sugar issues of baby’s, we are all well, home, and snuggled into our familiar surroundings. Familiar, of course, meaning dodging paper airplanes, stepping on Legos, and listening to complaints about chores and oatmeal. And we’ve added a lot of baby snuggling to our routine, too. Which seems to make all of the former seem a bit more cheerful.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 125 other followers