Thursday, June 12, 2008

Putting on an addition in our side yard

Not many will deny that one of the best parts about being a parent is the privilege and the right to slip back into the magic of childhood now and then. Even in my ripe old age I find myself indulging in youth on a daily basis. I play hopscotch. I build forts. I watch cartoons. And I even eat raw cookie dough without worrying about the eggs.
But without a doubt, my favorite part about slipping back into childhood is rediscovering the magic of nature with my kids. And in between writing these columns and being CMO (Chief Mommy Officer) of our household, I do all I can to close the door to my disastrous kitchen and over-flowing laundry room and head into the backyard because simply put, there ain’t nothin’ better than playing outside. The look of my son’s face when he catches a toad or my daughter checking on her fairy house every day? Just priceless.
We don’t have a huge yard, but we’re lucky enough to have our own little chunk of new-growth woods in the back. There are just enough maples to tap in the spring and even a few old gnarly apple trees to produce wormy fruits in the fall. Between those is a killer stand of wild cherry trees and enough poison ivy to make me itch just thinking about it. So it’s not much, but we love our woods.
However, it’s not the wooded area that is making me so excited this summer. It’s the yard, and the side yard that is mostly a dirt pile, to be exact. It’s there in that weedy pile of dirt that I am fulfilling one of my own childhood dreams and, as usual, dragging my kids along the way.
It’s called a sunflower house, and the easiest way to explain it is to tell you how to make your own. In a circle of about six or eight feet in diameter, you plant a ring of mammoth sunflowers. As the sunflowers grow, they create the walls of the “house.” When they are fully grown, you can sort of guide them to grow together at the top, creating the roof of your sunflower house. And then you go inside your digs, completely constructed of what is possibly the happiest flower known to man.
Tell me that doesn’t sound super cool…
I’ve been dreaming of doing this for a few years now, every year missing the chance to plant the seeds or waiting too long to decide where to put my sunflower house. But this year I decided to do it, and arming my older children with trowels and myself with a shovel in one hand and a baby in the other, we set out to plant our ring of seeds.
I soon found out that it’s not very practical to think that young children have the patience, the strength, or the tools to dig twelve little holes in our clay and rock filled Ohio soil. So they drifted away and found colorful rocks in the gravel and squirted each other with the hose while I, donating one arm to the baby, dug the holes with the other hand (which in case you were wondering, is not very easy to do.)
But if this thing grows and I can actually sit inside a room made entirely of flowers with my children and look at those pretty rocks, it will be worth every drop of sweat.
Now as the days warm and the rains fall, I find myself taking precious care of a new total of fifteen children – twelve little seedlings and three little kiddos to watch in amazement as they grow.




Update: I also started some in pots. The toad have been killing them, one by one...


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