Top Tips For Creating The Perfect Small Family Yard

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You all know how much my garden means to me, but some people aren’t so fortunate. Whether you’ve got an apartment with a balcony, or a small inner-city townhouse, sometimes outside space is at a premium. When you’ve got little ones, it can feel a little bit claustrophobic keeping them indoors all the time, so it can be liberating to make the most of the outside space you have, so that they have room to run around or just get some fresh air. The size of an outdoor area can be restrictive, but it’s not impossible to make a child-friendly garden which is only a few square feet, it just takes a bit of imagination. Check out these top tips for creating the perfect small family yard!

Make space

First things first, you’ll want to get rid of all the clutter. When you’ve got limited space, you need to make sure every inch is accessible. That means finding alternative arrangements for anything you’re storing there, at least when the garden is in use, and trashing anything which is just there for the sake of it. The more space you have available, the more space there is to play with.

Bring in some grass

Every garden should have some sort of grass, even if it’s a tiny balcony garden. Grass is a far safer surface on which children can play, unlike asphalt or concrete, and it can bring freshness and life to your yard. If your yard gets no sunlight, or the space just isn’t big enough to justify turf, why not consider an artificial grass such as Multiturf instead? They look and feel like grass, add softness for children when they’re playing, and they require far less maintenance than real turf, and they can be installed anywhere.

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Create a vegetable patch

However big your garden is, you’ll always have room for a tiny vegetable patch. It’s a great way to get kids outdoors, engaging with their food, weeding the yard, but also learning a bit of science in the process. You don’t have to dig up your entire yard, just a pot with a couple of tomato plants, some strawberries, or even a trashcan full of compost for growing potatoes is a fun way to get your kids interacting with the yard.

Use fold-away furniture

Chances are, mom and dad are going to want to use the yard too, but yard furniture tends to take up valuable playing space. Using fold-up furniture allows you to store it handily so that children can play in the yard, without the risk of tripping over or limiting their playing area.

Keep it safe

Whatever type of yard you have, there are going to be security concerns if your children are using it for recreational purposes. Keeping it safe from intruders, and ensuring they’re not able to get out onto any roads are a priority, so suitable fencing and a gate is an absolute must. If you’re using a balcony, ensuring that your children are not able to climb to the height of the barrier is essential, so avoid placing any garden furniture near to the edge that they can climb on. Keep water away too – even the smallest puddle can be dangerous when a child is around it unsupervised.

Making the most of your yard can be tricky when it’s tiny, but with a bit of imagination, it can be the perfect kid’s playground.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Finding The Extraordinary In The Ordinary October Moments

Don’t you just love the extraordinary moments in October? In northern California where I live, we do have a bit of a ‘fall’ season – and this year we’ve already seen some rain. I’ve been digging in – literally and figuratively – this month. Teaching middle school means that the first couple of months are crucial for setting up for success, so I’ve been digging deep to build relationships and think carefully about how to be my best in the classroom every day. At home, digging in my garden has given me a chance to clean up from the summer and prepare for the beauty of next spring. I love the cycles of life – keeps things interesting!

I wrote an October newsletter – you can view it here – and thought I’d show you what life has been like around here, and why I’ve slowed down my writing! I’ve been pretty active on Instagram – I’d love to connect with you there, too! @mamawolfeto2

veggies
End of summer harvest – peppers of all varieties, kale, tomatoes and gourds!
walking shadow
Walking…feeds my spirit.
Gourds
Gourds went crazy in our garden…I marveled at the colors, textures and intricacy of nature’s beauty.
AVID
AVID. Fuels my soul, makes me really feel like I can help change happen. I invited all AVID students, families, and tutors for a gathering in my classroom Thursday night. It was awesome!
Chromebooks
My students love to cuddle. I thought they looked like pomegranate seeds on Chromebooks. You can’t tell that they were reading heavy text about North Korea and comparing it to the society in The Giver.
quotes
I love quotes. Every month my planner gives me a good one, and I try to follow its advice.
garden
My garden is my solace, my stress reliever, my chance to create a little beauty. This month our arboretum had two plant sales, and I stocked up. Can’t wait to see the spring blooms!
firewood
I did it all by myself. Stocking up for winter fires and snuggly mornings.
San Diego
Once upon a time I lived in San Diego. I went back for a #gafesummit, and found a party in Balboa Park!
friends
My daughter and her daughter have been best friends since grade school. No wonder I like her so much! Great travel partner to #gafesummit on Coronado Island!
aunt
Everyone has that one crazy aunt, right???? #love
Grand Canyon
Meanwhile, my daughter’s adventures continued during her fall break trip to the Grand Canyon with her dad…
bike
I’ve ridden my bike to work every day so far this school year – this ride was the wettest one to date. Note the garbage bag my husband used to lovingly cover my teaching bag!
Socktober
Have you heard of Socktober? My AVID classes have collected nearly 500 pairs of socks for our local homeless shelter. It’s an easy way to pay it forward.

What were the extraordinary, ordinary moments of your October? I’d love to hear what’s filling your days and feeding your spirit!

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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How I’m Learning To Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity

“The only unique contribution we’ll make in this world will be born of creativity.” ~ Brene Brown

There’s this crazy, confusing thing  happening as I get older. As I’ve passed through the decades and find myself looking at a life ahead that is bound to be on the downhill slope, I see with clarity things that I hadn’t seen before -I see the urgency to step out of the comfort zone of creativity.

Perhaps these things were never there to begin with. Maybe they’ve been inside all the time, and it’s taken this long to realize that creativity is a need, not a want.

I’ve never been what I considered the ‘creative’ type. My sister, my aunts, my mom, my grandmother – now there are women who are creative. Canvas becomes startling images of beauty. Clay transforms into object. Fabric turns into clothing and pillows and bags.

The closest I’ve ever felt to being creative was through my garden. My approach a cultivation painted with reckless strokes, sometimes wild combinations of color and texture, but always with the hands of a woman trying to squeeze beauty into my space; of one attempting to simultaneously curb and release the loveliness of a part of what makes a home. I guess some might consider parenting an exercise in creativity; I’ve always felt that if I do it well enough, my children will be my greatest contribution to the world.

Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity

Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity
My garden is my creative escape.

“When did inspiration promise us that it owes us anything?” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert

Writing wove its way into my life five years ago; blogging transformed my private journal scribbles into a rough-hewn, unrefined platform to practice sharing my stories for the first time. As my children aged and my confidence matured, I recklessly dove into my newly released creativity. Inspired to connect with other women – mothers and teachers and writers and like-minded creative spirits who used words as their outlet, I greedily crafted a community that lifted me up, gave me courage, and reminded me that I need to write every day.

“When you get to the place where standing on the edge is more fearful than the risk of failure, I think you owe it to yourself and your world to leap.” ~Brene Brown

And here I find myself, half-way to 51, standing on the edge of what is left of my life. I see my children launching into adulthood with grace and courage. I write and publish and share and push myself to refine, to reflect. I know the nest will be empty soon, and I’ll be left with a vastness ready to fill.

I think about teaching another 15 years, and wonder if the system will support my need for change. I’m astonished I’ve made it this far – 25 years ago, I comforted myself with the notion that there were so many possibilities in the world, and when I didn’t like teaching anymore, I would jump, hoping that the net would catch me.

Turning 50 has created a strange sense of comfort and discontent; the moments when I sit in my writing space, surrounded by all that I’ve created in this life, I feel as if there is nowhere else I would rather – or I should be. I breathe deeply and slowly and write my daily gratitude for home and family and this span of moments which weave together so exquisitely. I wonder where my creativity could lead me, and what is worth doing even if I fail.

Step Out Of The Comfort Zone Of Creativity
Looking down from my writing space.

“Failure has a function. It asks you if you really want to go on making things.” ~Clive James

And then the discontent creeps in on the back of absolute acknowledgment of where I am. I know my days are finite. I see my mothering transfer into my children as they age and grow and find their own space in the world. I wonder where my creativity could lead me, and what is worth doing even if I fail.

Now is the time to step out of the comfort zone of creativity, the time to leap without knowing where the landing is. It’s the time to trust the creative journey, and to know that whatever challenge the day presents is there for a reason.

It’s time to go on making things and continue the story.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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lily

Lily, The Perfect Prayer

The Lily

Night after night
darkness
enters the face
of the lily
which, lightly,
closes its five walls
around itself,
and its purse
of honey,
and its fragrance,
and is content
to stand there
in the garden,
not quite sleeping,
and, maybe,
saying in lily language
some small words
we can’t hear
even when there is no wind
anywhere,
its lips
are so secret,
its tongue
is so hidden –
or, maybe,
it says nothing at all
but just stands there
with the patience
of vegetables
and saints
until the whole earth has turned around
and the silver moon
becomes the golden sun –
as the lily absolutely knew it would,
which is itself, isn’t it,
the perfect prayer?

~ Mary Oliverthe lily

Oh, how I love Mary Oliver and her tremendous ability to weave language and nature and wisdom into a braid of enlightenment.

Her poetry always appears when I need it, whispering to me to pay attention – to be here, now.

Mary Oliver makes me think – makes me work for it. I slide her words around my mouth, swallowing bit after bit of understanding until suddenly, it makes perfect sense.

The ‘patience of vegetables and saints’ – yes, yes, yes.

The perfect prayer.

The realization that I, too, can “lightly” close myself, wind up my thoughts and pain and joy inside and just be content to be here, now, with them, whispering solitary prayers for peace and hope and grace and courage… and patience. Breath. Calm.

And the deep, deep knowing that all will be well.

The blooms spring up overnight, gracing me with their glory, their fragility, and their contentment to just be, to grow, to bloom “until the whole earth has turned around and the silver moon becomes the golden sun.”

One day at a time.

One prayer at a time.

Thank you, Mary Oliver.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Beauty, The Brave, The Exemplary, Blazing Open

daffodils

This week El Nino backed off, and the sun smiled on us with 70 degree days. Everywhere I went, the violets popped their purple and white heads, the daffodils unfurled into yellow trumpets heralding spring, and the finches and flickers and chickadees flock to the feeder in glorious song. It’s hard not to think about spring, and the emergence of new life just below the surface.

birds at feeder

Oh, this world. This humble and silky life. Thank you, Mary Oliver, for reminding me to fill my arms with flowers, to be wild, and  that “there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary, blazing open” trusting the journey to spring .

Peonies by Mary Oliver

This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers

and they open —
pools of lace,
white and pink —
and all day the black ants climb over them,

boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away

to their dark, underground cities —
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,

the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
and rise,
their red stems holding

all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again —
beauty the brave, the exemplary, blazing open.

Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?

Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and softly,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,

with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
their eagerness
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
nothing, forever?

~ Mary Oliver

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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