Tending. And a giveaway.

A piece I previously wrote and published for Today's Mama, reworked

My mom is a gardener.  When I was little, I’d follow her around our coastal Florida yard.  The thick grass wet with morning dew would lick at my bare toes - a fine welcome to an already hot, humid day.  Birds flew from tree to tree.  The smell of oranges and gardenias hung in the air, a canopy of sweet, musty mist suspended below a blue sky.  That yard was rich and alive.  Bees and caterpillars - bright green lizards, ants, beetles, and spiders.  Curving flower beds, verdant and lush.  Hedges perfectly tailored.  Two grand palms stood tall and regal in the center, ruling over the tapestry of things, swaying gently in the breeze.  I remember the din of that yard so vividly, just like I remember my mom crawling on all fours, moving slowly through her beds, plucking weeds while audibly picking at her thoughts.  I always thought it strange how she’d slowly comb through those well-loved beds, talking to herself amongst the roses.

Now it is me, a woman and a mother, on my hands and knees combing through the beds.  My yard is pint-sized and sits at an altitude much higher than sea level.  The air is not musty and moist.  It is dry, the dirt crusty and crumbling between my fingers.  I am pulling weeds while simultaneously pulling thoughts from my head that need not have room to grow.  Ironically, it is me now audibly throwing words out, sending them off on the wind’s wings to turn into nothingness, or tucking them deeply into the soil so the thought can grow into something more.   I pause and look up to see Theo, our oldest little one, watching me from a few feet away.  No doubt he’s listening to my every mumbled word and watching my every move.  He quickly gets back to his task.  A few minutes later I hear him mumbling his thoughts to the wind too.

All those years as a sun-kissed, sweaty Florida girl, following my mom around her flower beds taught me lessons that are only now blooming so wildly in my life.  It was she who taught me what it means to kneel down in the grass; how important it is to have something to do that allows you to pluck, till, plant, prune, water, nurture.  Without even realizing it, she taught me that tending is vital to surviving, that everything eventually needs a good weeding through, and that a gardener’s tasks are very similar to those of a wife, mother, daughter, friend and lover of life.

Most importantly, I learned that every seed tended - mumbled to or not - will eventually bloom.

I received a copy of The Book of Gardening Projects for Kids: 101 ways to get kids outside, dirty, and having fun.

I'm really excited to share this book with you. The Preface made me think back to that piece I wrote last year about following my mom around our yard as a child, and just how much of an impact it had on me.  This morning, while tending to my plants, I watched out of the corner of my eye as my two little ones hauled bucket after bucket of water to their "garden", which is basically a mud pit embellished with plastic pirates and whatever plant clippings and dead-headed flowers I have that day.  They call me over, giddy and excited, to show me a new bug they've unearthed.  A bird lands on the fence just above their heads and Sully exclaims, "Hey mom, get the bird guide.  Let's figure out what this is."  While Theo chimes in, "it's a goldfinch, Sully."

This book is full of fun, fresh ideas - Bug Races, The Fine Art of Flower Pounding, Making Dolls from Flowers, Muddy Miniature Masterpieces, Lavender Wands - anyone?  And Timber Press is giving this book to one of you!  For a chance to win a copy simply leave a comment here - a memory from your childhood that inspired you to love nature, or something your little one(s) loves to do in the garden or around the yard, and a random winner will be chosen and announced one week from today.  You can also click here for another chance to win the book along with some extra goodies from Timber Press.


  1. Hmmm. My mom's stupendous yard and flower garden is still a mystery to me. As a kid, I knew spring had arrived when our garage filled with flats of pansies. But it was my mom's love (still is) and we were never invited. My garden is different. Right now, it's mostly vegetables. Juniper helps me water and weed even though we loose a few carrots along the way. I like it like that.
    Awesome giveaway, thanks!

  2. What an incredible giveaway Katie!! My connection to nature was a gift from my godmother. I grew up in suburbia, but during the summer I would go visit her in rural upstate New York. She would stop her car and make way for ducklings, stop hikes to uncover the nest of a mouse and share the pink little contents for the briefest moment, take use hiking up meandering creeks, play hide and seek in the birches, explore beaver dams and suspended bogs with pitcher plants. She gave me the most incredible gift that I would not have otherwise experienced. For my children, I have moved to a rural island and we have a good sized garden for them to hide amongst the pea plants and raised beds and build sandcastles alongside barrels of fresh strawberries. I would love to see the ideas this book offers as I have some serious nature lovers on my hands and I am always looking for new ideas! Thank you for this wonderful opportunity Katie!!

  3. Nature and the outdoors was a huge part of my youth. From the nature hikes to collect leaves in the fall to the weekend trips to my uncle's cabin (sans indoor plumbing, tv, radio etc). But some of my most vivid memories come from the unstructured play in our wooded backyard. My brother and I would spend hours exploring the woods (on our own) and building forts complete with "furniture". We would cook mud pies and tend to the homestead - such good, clean fun. Well, probably not so clean:) I hope that I am instilling the same love of the outdoors with my little ones. It is so important. What a wonderful giveaway - Thanks katie!

  4. I love it the city pickles!!!
    I love the giveaway!
    My first memory is of being in the backyard with my mom and a family friend and her daughter. The moms were getting a bed ready for planting and there were huge depths of mud and my friend and I were just covered in mud, happily playing.

    My mom has always been a gardener and a good one, at that. She has never had big wide open spaces to work with but smal "English Garden" yards and many a photograph has been taken of her gardens. She's taught me everything I know, and I'm sure there is much more she could teach me as well.

  5. I spent my childhood playing and helping in my mother's garden, and now my three year old is following me around in the same garden, planting veggies and harvesting flowers - it's such a magical place!! I'd love to check out this book and get some fun new ideas. Thanks! Brooke

  6. We often go on hikes as a family with our little one in tow in the hiking backpack. We always stop near a tree so he can reach out and touch the tree bark and leaves. It is amazing to watch his face light up as he touches new textures in nature.

    Would love to read this book!

  7. What a fun book! I told myself that I was going to do some serious kid stuff in the garden this year, but here we are in July and I did hardly a project at all! They do have their own box and they love to watch it all grow, but I think digging in the dirt trumps all other garden activity:)

  8. What a great book and giveaway Katie!! I think the start of my love with nature was when we lived in Ohio when I was 7 or 8, and when we lived on one acre of woods. My brother and I explored every inch of those tiny woods which then felt like 100 acres. On the weekends we would travel to my grandparent's lake house. Fishing, swimming in the lake, canoeing, climbing trees, catching lightening bugs...the kind of memories that my husband and I emphatically want to help create with our children. Colorado has so far exceeded what we had hoped for, and I am so excited to discover more.

    Thanks Katie for the chance to win, and for my trip down memory lane!!

  9. I have so many memories of my mom working out in the gardens. All the veggies she would grow, sitting on the back porch shelling peas. Every year her gardens would get bigger. Now she has very little lawn left, most of the yard having been taken over by the gardens and paths. :) I hope my kids have many fond memories of gardens when they get older like I do with my mom.

    Such a fantastic book!! Thank you for the giveaway!

  10. My Mom telling me that corn grew so fast that you could actually hear it growing. I would curl up next to it in the field behind our house to listen so closely...

  11. Catching tadpoles was always my favorite activity. Because a tadpole was such a good excuse to bring nature home, up the stairs, through the door, and set that slimy tadpole jar right in the middle of the kitchen counter. The lucky child, of course, got to move the jar to his or her bedroom at nighttime.

    Thanks for the opportunity! (Hoping that I slip in before the deadline! ;-))