Sunday, August 16, 2015

Parenting 101 by Ren

You know, guys, despite everything, I'm pretty sure my kids are probably going to turn out just fine, but certainly not because of me.

I'm the always-busy-often-stressed-sometimes-distracted-put-the-kids-in-a-million-activities-and-still-worry-incessantly mom. Don't worry, though, I'm working on it. I'm cutting out diet soda, sleeping more, and working hard to just be present for them. Eventually--probably just about the time Stow is heading off to college--I fully intend to get my act together.

Fortunately for the kids (and for me -- who am I kidding), Ren has a pretty laid back style of parenting that, when I step back and just let him do his thing, is extremely effective. (Funny how these things just seem to work out.)

Ren upped the ante on his "natural" parenting style this summer, and as a result, the kids have spent a lot of time enjoying each other and the outdoors.

It started this past spring when Ren put up a series of bird feeders in the back yard. I was skeptical.

But the feeders led to a lot of this:

Bird watching

Which led to this:

Pink's bird watching journal.
Soon the kids could identify all of the birds that came into our yard and could understand how things like weather and the presence of other birds impacted feeder traffic on any given day. They also figured out how to use a bird watching app to keep records about their discoveries and to record the different bird calls. Such big pay off for such a simple idea!

Next, Ren decided to plant a garden. One day I came home to find these:

20+ rose bushes waiting to be planted
You remember, Ren has a very bad back. And, I have whatever the opposite of a green thumb is. I mean, I can kill a plant in 12 hours flat (and sometimes even sooner). When I pulled in from work to find these roses lining the garage floor, I could already imagine Ren's back taking a turn for the worse and me being put in charge of the plants. It wasn't a rosy scene (pun totally intended). Not long after the roses, Ren brought home not one, not two, but three trees to plant.That's about the time we had a huge fight about his plans for our landscaping. I just knew I'd end up having to care for all of these plants, and I don't have the time or skill for that.

Eventually, I figured out how to chill out and just let Ren do his thing.

Ren's garden not long after he planted it.
I'm really glad I did. The kids LOVE the garden. Ren planted green peppers, nasubi (Japanese eggplant), tomatoes, and strawberries. The excitement was palpable as the kids waited for the the garden to yield its first delicacy. It turned out that the first harvest was a single tiny strawberry. When it was ready to pick, Sky brought it gingerly to the house and carefully cut it into three tinier pieces for the three of them to share.

The first (teeny tiny) strawberry.
By the first of August, the garden looked like this:

The garden in full bloom.
And, this:
Tomatoes and a rose bush (plus a couple of corn stalks the kids planted at camp.
Japanese nasubi (eggplant)

I admit, I had NO idea the kids would love the garden this much. They monitor the growth of the vegetables and fruit, help water the garden, and pick fresh vegetables every day. And, since they never seem to tire of any of these tasks, they're outside a lot!

Of course, the other benefit of planting a garden is the loads and loads of fresh fruits and (mostly) vegetables we've harvested this summer.

Veggies from the garden.

We have A LOT of eggplant!
The biggest surprise for me is that we have been able to get the kids to eat nasubi (eggplant) and green peppers this summer despite the fact they would never eat them before. I know that kids are more willing to eat things they make themselves, but I didn't imagine this held true for eggplant and green pepper. So far, we've made miso nasubi stir fry, miso soup with nasubi, mabo nasubi, and nasubi spaghetti...

Miso nasubi stir fry.

Miso soup with nasubi and enoki
...and every single meal we've made with vegetables from our garden has ended with plates that look like this:

Next summer, Ren wants to add corn, cucumbers, and celery. I'm hoping for a few fewer nasubi and tomato plants, but I've learned to step back and just let Ren do what Ren does. The results are pretty amazing!

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