Gardening with a toddler is no walk in the park

We faced some garden challenges to say the least.

First the resident squirrels saw the new garden box as a great place to start hiding their acorns and peanuts. Their digging dug up a few of my seeds.

Then some birds thought the corn seeds might be good, but as it was sprouting roots already, it must not have tasted good and they left my seedlings drying in the air.

Followed by Obiwan who found the newly sprouted leaves to be pretty neat so he pulled a few up.

I resorted to stabbing sticks and hanging mesh around the garden box to deter animals for a while so my seeds would have a chance to sprout and take root. With Obiwan I showed him the sprouts and said, “These are babies. Don’t touch them or they’ll be hurt.” And so far so good.


But then I missed watering the garden for two days when the weather was nice and the more tender seedlings dried up.

And lastly we kept seeing rain in the forecast so I kept holding off watering but three days later there’s still no rain and more of my seedlings have dried further.

I’ve also determined that this location just doesn’t offer enough sunlight for half the veggies I’m growing. What’s growing has gotten quite thin and leggy as they try to reach for the sunlight. Apparently the rule of thumb is vegetables where you harvest leaves can tolerate some shade; vegetables where you harvest fruit/roots need full sun.

My green onions and kale looks good though. That might be all we’ll have this summer.


My dried and scraggly veggies

The kids like to come, squat by the boxes, point at bugs crawling around, point at the little shoots that have survived so far and repeat the names of the vegetables. Nessness is particularly helpful in instructing Obiwan, “Didi these are peas. Don’t touch or mommy will be very angry.” So not all is lost yet.


Where do carrots come from?

My kids are starting to think our food somehow magically comes in bags and boxes from Costco or Superstore. I’d like them to see how our vegetables actually take a while to grow, how they need care, and how birds and squirrels can dig up your seeds sometimes. So I threw myself into making a couple garden boxes from old fence boards while they napped the last few weeks. The large box took two hours to build and set into the ground. The smaller boxes took three hours total to build and install. Leveling them when installing probably takes as much time as building them.

It’s physically quite taxing but it’s also invigorating to labour away in fresh air and long-awaited sun!

Some technical info : In the large box, I didn’t line it with anything other than cardboard at the bottom because I read plastic next to wood keeps the moisture and warmth in, which causes the boards to rot sooner. My dad insists the plastic lining is necessary to protect the boards, especially since I used 1x6s instead of 2x6s, so I’ve lined the smaller boxes (but only half way up). I also stabbed a lot of holes into the bottom of the lining for water to drain. We’ll find out in a few years which box holds up.

Another caution when using old boards is knowing the age of them. Pressure treated wood from before 2003 are unsafe for vegetable gardens because of the chemicals used. Lead paint was banned after 1978.

What am I going to grow? I’ve picked vegetables we eat, of different heights and that will involve the kids for harvesting. In the large box there will be corn, cucumber, zucchini, pole beans, peas, spinach, leaf lettuce, Kale and green onions. I’m also growing nasturtium flowers because they’re supposed to attract the bugs that would otherwise eat my vegetables. In the taller, small box, I’m going to grow cherry tomatoes, carrots and basil. In the lower small box I’m growing herbs and maybe garlic.

We’ll see how we do!


Toddler words

21 months Obiwan

Obiwan is a bilingual Cantonese and English speaker. We speak Cantonese as much as we can to him but he’s hearing more and more English as NN speaks more English, now thanks to preschool, plus we’re using more English with her as our Cantonese vocabulary for more complex expressions and emotions is getting limited. He also hears us speak to each other in English. We’re going to try to hang onto this bilingualism as long as we can. It’s harder when there’s no grandparents present to speak to them. Here’s the words he’s saying now:

  • Family titles : Mommy, Baba, jeh jeh (big sister), yeh yeh (paternal Grandpa), mah mah (paternal grandma), gung gung (maternal grandpa), poh poh (maternal grandma), Yee Yee (maternal auntie), goh goh (older brother), mui mui (younger sister), dai dai (younger brother, and also self reference)
  • Vehicles : Cheh Cheh (car), bah bee (should be “bah see” for bus but he can’t make s sounds yet), bay day (should be “fay gay” for plane but he can’t make f sounds yet either)
  • Body parts : baybay (nose), an-an (eye), yeeyee (ear), papa (should be “hapa” for chin), ngah (teeth), tao (head), sau (hand), momo (eyebrows/lashes)
  • Boh boh (ball)
  • Animals : gok gok gaii (chicken, including the clucking sound), ma (horse), moo (cow reference bc he can’t say “ngow” yet), wohwoh (dog, but also refers to squirrels), mao (cat, but also refers to rabbits and bears), behbeh (bear, though if cuddly he’ll call it a mao), yiyi (should be “Yu” for fish), hai (crab), ngap (duck), bibbit (should be “ribbit” in reference to frogs)
  • Momo (dust, hair, loose thread, string, fuzz, feather)
  • Baby
  • Fruit : Behby (berry, in reference to anything berry size), jiji (should be “tai ji” for grape), Apple, yang yang (should be “chahng” for orange), jiujiu (should be “herng jiu” for banana)
  • Snacks : nak (snack), nupnup (reference to seeds and nuts), cheese, fi-bar (fig bar)
  • dok (read, a request to read a book)
  • up-see (a request to help him climb up)
  • poe-poe (a request to be picked up)
  • hi/bye bye
  • peese (please)
  • jehjeh (thank you in Canto, different tone from the word for big sister)
  • doe (as in “goh doe” for directing you “over there”)
  • poo poo (sometimes to tell us he needs to poo, sometimes as a tactic to get out of his highchair at meal time)
  • NO
  • moon
  • baba (should be “fafa” for flower….again, the f sound)
  • mut mut (socks)
  • hai (shoes)
  • All done

A decent list I think. He hasn’t started to put words combinations together yet. We’re working on colors next. It’s pretty amazing to see how he’s absorbing two languages. He understands most instructions in Cantonese and when NN tells him something in English, he also responds to it. I do feel having two languages to sort out makes his speech a little slower to develop and at an age when his emotions and thoughts are forming, it’s frustrating for him to not be able to voice it. Anyone else with bilingual households? How are you and your kids handling it?


Childwise is kicking my butt

21 months, Obiwan
47 months, Nessness

I’ve been told it’s the Terrible Twos, Threenager, F’in Fours and Fearsome Fives. Then things are fun and lovely until the Tumultuous Teens. Well, I’d like to mitigate the f’in fearsomeness as much as can be reasonably expected. Because, if it’s possible, then why not?

I’ve found the Babywise and Toddlerwise series to be quite helpful with the principles they provide to guide parenting decisions and practices. Ms PR foresaw what I might appreciate next and sent me Childwise (THANK YOU!), to assist in parenting three to seven year olds. Well, Hubs and I started reading the book together. We got through the Introduction and reached the list of 15 Childwise principles before feeling a little kicked in the butt. Some of the principles we’re already working on from the earlier books in the series, but some principles really highlight where things aren’t going well right now. We have work to do.

Here’s the 15 Childwise Principles:

  1. Great marriages make great parents – YES. This is difficult in the early “in the trenches” years but I believe it’s so important to be intentional about maintaining connectedness and carving time for each other, above what might be nice for the kids to have. Kids will leave you one day, your spouse shouldn’t.
  2. Use the strength of your leadership early on, and the strength of your relationship later – This opened my eyes a bit….leadership now, relationship later. I’m sure it doesn’t mean that relationship formation isn’t important through ALL the years, but perhaps that leadership from parents now is foundational to having a good relationship later.
  3. Parent now, be friends later – similar to above. And I totally agree, my children will have friends at school, etc, I need to be a parent. My worry is how to be a parent they’ll want to be friends with later.
  4. Instill morality into a child and his behavior will fall into place – This is something I’ve been trying to keep at the back of my mind for a while….related to building character and not conforming behavior.
  5. What you do not yourself desire, do not put before others. Do to others what you would have them do to you – The Silver and Golden Rule. Easy to forget.
  6. Other people count – Yes, we’ve been working on this since they’ve been able to reach for our stuff.
  7. It is not enough to teach your children how to act morally, they must learn how to think morally – And my question is HOW to teach them to think morally?
  8. When teaching virtue, a positive example is better than a thousand lectures – I’ve been terrible with this. My impatience. My curt responses. And Nessness is copying my tone and attitude. SIGHHHHHH.
  9. Discipline is heart food for your child – I hope so
  10. If learning didn’t take place, correction didn’t happen – OMIGOODNESS….have I taught her nothing then?
  11. Allowing a child to progress into his new and expanding world in an orderly fashion greatly enhances learning and decreases the need for correction – I know there are different opinions about this…but this makes sense for me.
  12. Constantly reminding a child to do what is expeced only means you have no expectation – GAAHHHHH. But I thought I had expectations! It must be coming out all wrong.
  13. Verbal affirmation is never redundant – Definitely need to work on this too.
  14. Wise parenting is better than power parenting – Oh I’ve been power parenting for sure and can’t wait to learn how to be wise instead.
  15. An ounce of self-control is better than a pound of trouble – Not exactly sure what this means but self-control is a fabulous thing in this world of self-absorption and self-centeredness.

I get a little bit sad…

When my kiddies were infants I marveled over their little hands and feet. My fingertips delighting in touching their soft and perfect skin. (Apart from the cradle cap, baby acne and mild eczema anyways.) The palms of their hands and the bottoms of their feet were beautiful. Nibbling on their backs to get some baby giggles was the best. These perfect little humans were ours. That itself boggles my mind sometimes.

Then they get a little older. They start rolling, crawling, toddling, walking, climbing, running….and with that comes tumbling, tripping, crashing, falling, smashing. I see torn nails, cuts, raised bumps on their heads, bruises, scrapes and scratches. And I get a little bit sad that they’re growing up. With growing up comes the owies that mark up their skin. Which makes my heart ache little bit more knowing one day there’ll be owies that won’t be seen because it’ll be hurts of the heart. Or of the spirit.

So I pray. I want to pray they’ll be protected from all of that but I know that’s not how life is. Life, this fallen life with fallen and broken people, will bring pain. So I pray for strength, for courage, for bravery, for perseverance, for patience and ultimately for assurance that they are secure in Love. God’s love and our love. May they always be able to rest and trust in that. But I’m still a little bit sad thinking about it.


Want to know how cloth diapers work at my house after baby started eating solids?

6-16 months, Obiwan

The poo gets much stinkier. Much. Stinkier. Especially after the introduction of meat. But thankfully, Obiwan continued his cue from pre-solid days of grunting and getting all red in the face when about to go, usually during every meal, so we can get him on the toilet in time. Cloth diapers became a breeze. Nearly 95% of his poos went into the toilet. I didn’t have to worry about “wasting” a diaper because it’d be washed and back in use in no time.

His diaper change schedule is something like this:
8am – diaper with big insert
Noon – diaper with big insert
3pm – diaper with big insert
5pm – diaper with small insert
630pm – diaper with small insert
8pm – disposable

Around the one year mark, his cues became more stealth. He didn’t grunt as loud and he stopped going during the meal. He’d go after a meal, while playing, somewhere, out of earshot. And I’d find him in, literally, really sh*tty situations. He didn’t produce patties you could shake off. Nope. It’d be a jar of Nutella, or peanut butter mixed with whole pieces of fruit, corn, peas, grains of rice smeared all over his bum, squished up the front, and out of the legs. (I have to say however, that cloth diapers kept blowouts from going up his back, which disposables cannot do.) Oh how I wanted to just throw the whole thing away….but couldn’t because a single cloth diaper is $25. So I’d scrape everything into the toilet with a plastic spoon, throw the spoon away, and then wash the rest out before putting it in the pail. I’d say 50% of poos were in his diaper. Rough days I tell you.

While cleaning such poo-nami’s off, I’d repeatedly tell Obiwan he has to communicate when he needs to poo. He could already sign “please” and “all done” so I suggested fisted hand signals with a loud grunt to him. My hubs would shake his head and tell me he’s ready to go back to disposables. But I hung on and tried to watch for cues better, also asking Nessness to tell me if Obiwan ever grunts while they’re playing. This helped us get up to 75% of poos making it into the toilet.

Then last week, he grunted and said “foo”. I looked at him, “Do you need to poo?” He grunted again and said “foo”. So I took him to the toilet and he went!! I thought it was coincidence but he did it several more times. And sometimes he’d grunt, say “foo”, and then go to the toilet and pull his potty seat while I followed him. We’re back to 90%! Imma pretty proud Momma. 🙂

I’m hoping the cloth diaper will help in toilet training for pee as well since more moisture can be felt compared to disposables. We’ll see how things go.


Want to know how cloth diapers work in my house?

1-6 months, Obiwan

I wanted to start cloth diapers with Nessness but being the first born, and possibly because we were renovating a house right after her birth, I never got into the head space to research/purchase/use cloth diapers with her. But I wanted to considering how quickly the disposables were flying out of the boxes we were constantly buying. And considering how she tended to poo right after I changed her.

With Obiwan, a friend just sent me a Craigslist post for a set of cloth diapers and after calculating that they would be paying for themselves after 6-9 months of use, I jumped in.

Brand: Funky Fluff
Number of Covers: 24
Number of Inserts: 18 long, 18 short
Number of days to use up the diapers: 5-7 days

I still used disposables when going out and for overnight. But otherwise, I’m only doing an extra load of laundry once a week.

Before solid foods:
I didn’t use the cloth diapers until after Obiwan had passed out all the dark, gooey meconium poop. While I’ve read that you can just put the yellow goopy diapers into the wash, I really didn’t like the idea (real or imagined) of residual poop being in my washer and possibly getting into the next load of laundry. I rubbed and rinsed out all the diapers, whether just wet or soiled, before putting them in the wash. It took 30 extra minutes.

At the 4-5 month mark, I started toilet training with Obiwan, putting him on the toilet for five minutes after every feed. This saved a couple diapers from getting soiled. Then I noticed that he would fart and grunt when about to deliver solids so I’d wisk him to the toilet and catch it all there. So for a while I barely had any poo diapers to rinse. It was lovely.

I also decided rinsing out pee diapers weren’t worth the extra time so I set up a rubbermaid diaper pail under the sink and all the wet stuff went straight in. Of course anytime I opened it, a wall of putrid stink threatened to overwhelm me, especially at laundry time, but I’ve gotten good at breathing through my mouth. Small price to pay for less washing. And for keeping diapers out of the landfill!

Cloth diapering after introducing solids in the next post.