Green Kids: Building a Lasagna Garden

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Most people aren’t thinking about prepping their garden at Thanksgiving. But due to a delay known as “having small children,” that’s what we were doing on Sunday, prepping the layers of our inedible lasagna garden. Lasagna gardening, also called sheet mulching or sheet composting, is a permaculture method of gardening that’s easy, cheap, and fun to do with kids.

Lasagna gardening mimics the natural process of leaf litter and other organic matter building up on the forest floor. In the forest, the dead leaves and other plants slowly accumulate and then decompose into soil. Lasagna gardening speeds up this process. Because the organic matter you layer is largely cheap or free, you save quite a bit of money. This technique also doesn’t leave any disturbed soil for weeds to root in. Even though it takes some serious prep time in the fall, it makes for a nearly maintenance-free garden in the spring and summer.

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The “But Why?” Phase

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I have to be the only parent in history looking forward to my kid’s “Why?” stage. I imagined a whole universe of learning lying ahead of us. I’d answer questions until I ran out of answers and then we’d look it up together, snuggled up in the light of the computer screen. When we didn’t have time, we’d write them down to investigate later. When I’d ask him what he thought, he’d come up with a brilliant but age-appropriate answer, showing equal parts creativity and insight.

Like any parenting fantasy, it didn’t work out that way.

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Sharing Values with Family Stories

 

sharing-values-with-family-storiesSitting around the Thanksgiving table, letting the food settle before dessert, was prime storytelling time in my family. At my aunt’s house in New Jersey, we’d cram as many chairs as we could around the table. Instead of focusing on the vastly different places family members ended up, we looked to the past. Even outside of holidays, my family often shared stories, of struggles and triumphs, of funny incidents and serious ones.

As an adult, I now see that these stories influenced my values so much more than any amount of lecturing would have. In fact, children who hear family stories about both good and bad times have more resilience in the face of difficult circumstances than those who don’t. Here are a few of my family’s stories and the values they passed on to me.

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A Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Families

Text: "Holiday Gift Guide for Outdoor Families, We'll Eat You Up, We Love You So" Photos of a plastic watering can for children, a board book called Hello, National Parks, a rain jacket, and a blue headlamp.
Getting kids outside has a whole host of benefits, from stronger immune systems to the sheer joy of play. While sometimes all that’s needed is a stick and a bit of imagination, having certain gear can help bringing kids outside easier, safer and more fun. Whether you’re in the mountains or your own backyard, this gift guide – which is mainly focused on kids in preschool and elementary school – should provide a few helpful suggestions. (Note – none of these are affiliate or sponsored links, just products and/or companies I personally like.)

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How Parents Can Help Love Trump Hate

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The election of Donald Trump for president has unearthed a whole spectrum of reactions. While some people are triumphant, many of us are frustrated, sad, angry, and exhausted – including me. Trump’s future policies are likely to be disastrous for climate justice, immigrants, people of color, LBGT people, religious minorities, poor people, and disabled people. Even though Trump hasn’t taken office yet, there have been numerous reports of people emboldened by his rhetoric who are targeting and harassing vulnerable people.

But as Valarie Kaur wrote after the Charleston shooting, “Today we mourn, tomorrow we organize.” Now, it’s metaphorically, if not literally, tomorrow. It’s time to pick ourselves up and take action.

While it can be very hard to find time, energy and money to spare as a parent, here are some constructive things that we can do in response:

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To My Children Upon the Election of President Trump

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To my children,

I’m sorry. That’s really the core of what I have to say right now. I’m so, so sorry.

I’m sorry that I was crying as we snuggled in bed this morning. Sprout, when you asked me what was wrong, I said, “The really mean person was elected leader of the country.” I almost choked saying the words. They just seemed so wrong. I’m sorry that I may be crying when I put you to bed tonight.

I’m sorry that our country elected a racist, xenophobic,  misogynistic bully to lead it. That this is the sort of leadership the people of the United States of America actually want to have. That someone who stands for everything that I’m trying to teach you to stand against is going to be the most powerful person in the world. That we can’t hold our future president to higher standards than I hold you.

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Unexpected Skills I’ve Learned As a Parent

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Changing diapers, chasing after toddlers, tolerating loud nonsensical singing from the never-ending musical from hell – all expertise one can expect to pick up as a parent. But there’s a specific subset of skills that my pre-child mind would have never dreamed up until I needed to do them. Here’s some of the things I’ve learned how to do in my three years as a mom that I would have never predicted:

Be okay with handling my breasts in public and exposing my nipples in front of my parents

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