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Year of the Winged Gourd
In early summer, we picked up a few veggie starts at a produce stand down the road. Spring had been long, cool, and wet, and our summer garden needed a boost. The cucumbers and tomatoes we’d planted from seed had crumpled without sufficient warmth, and we’d entirely forgotten to plant pumpkins.
Growing pumpkins is a new family tradition. We like to plant pumpkin seeds in a pile of compost in the front yard, and watch as that one tiny seedling expands across its sunny domain, even sending tendrils into the driveway and through the branches of nearby shrubs. By Halloween, we’re carving bright orange, homegrown Jack-o-Lanterns, which feels like magic, every time.
So home we went with our lemon cucumber and cherry tomato starts, and one promising-sounding “giant” pumpkin plant. June gloom finally gave way to long-awaited July sunshine, and we watched the baby plants quickly double and triple in size.
It wasn’t until late August that we noticed there was something peculiar about our pumpkins. Some of them— no wait, all of them?— were misshapen and sort of… bumpy. We waited and watched. By September, it was clear: these were not pumpkins. This was some other kind of decorative gourd. A winged gourd, it turns out. And now we had roughly one million.
One squash-family seedling looks very much like another, and likely our pumpkin had simply been mislabeled. We laughed and marveled, but also: what were we going to do with all of them?
We piled a nice group in a basket on top of our piano. (Shades of “It’s decorative gourd season, mfs!” an essay that makes me laugh so hard I cry). I texted friends— anybody need a winged gourd? I’m your girl. Then we put a big box out by our Little Free Library, free for the taking. We foisted several on my in-laws, along with some actually edible things we’d harvested, like eggs and russet potatoes and acorn squash. But there were still— are still— so, so many. Maybe I’ll just start leaving them places?
There’s a moral here, I’m sure. Or an anti-moral: sometimes you actually can reap what you didn’t sow.
Whatever it is, it isn’t a tidy metaphor. And to be honest, that kind of tracks.
A whole lot of things I didn’t plan have taken shape in my life this year. We’re expecting our fourth child in late April. I’m 13 weeks along, and though I didn’t plan to have a baby in my last year of acupuncture school, I love this new baby and this new plan so very much. I’m homeschooling my oldest this year, something I didn’t expect to do after schools had re-opened. It feels like a good and right thing for us, and it’s also just plain hard work. I’ve felt compelled to set down my writing for a while. And I recently started RCIA, unable to ignore the increasingly strong call I’ve been feeling toward the Catholic faith.
None of this makes a whole lot of sense when I think about where I thought I’d be— what I thought I’d planted— and I really don’t know how it’s all going to turn out. Some days I feel like a winged gourd, round and lumpy and out of place. All I can really do is trust that God has a purpose for all of this, for me and my family and my future patients, and just take things as they come.
News from the blanket fort
“Can we listen to Padre Pio again, pleeease?” came Sky’s request one afternoon. It was that in-between hour before dinner when my kids need a break from one another, and some quiet time with Magnatiles or sketchbooks. I’d just brought home new colored pencils for Sky, and Pipsqueak markers for Iris and Robin, who tend to run them straight into the ground— snapping them end-to-end to build towers (Iris), or vigorously covering a sheet of paper in a single color (Robin). Sky decided the perfect thing to go with the joy of new pencils was the newest episode of a favorite podcast in our house: Saints Alive. We’d already listened to the two-part episode on Saint Padre Pio, and I loved that she remembered it and wanted to play it again.
We recently became Patreon members of this monthly kids’ radio-theater podcast on the saints, in gratitude for the many high-quality, free episodes we’ve enjoyed in the past year— and in the hope that they’ll keep making more. The producers hire trained actors to read the parts, including children for the saint’s early years, and the 20-minute episodes are really engaging. Each one comes with a free coloring page to work on while you listen. You don’t have to be a patron to listen to the podcast. (I’ll note that the first part of the Padre Pio episode does have a slightly scary scene where the saint encounters a demon, so pre-screen for your child’s temperament.) The newest episode, on Therese of Lisieux, is out tomorrow, and you better believe we have our coloring pages ready and our calendars marked.
Another audio resource that has brought abundant joy to our home is our Mini Yoto Player. The kids share one and we have been slowly acquiring sound cards with stories, music, and educational content. Robin Hood and Ladybird Audio Adventures got us through a 3-hour drive to Bend recently, with minimal fighting and whining. (A minor miracle.) They also love listening to Yoto Radio (no commercials! clean lyrics!) and Yoto Daily, a mix of jokes, games and activities that are new each day. And I’ve been experimenting with the “make your own” cards to put together music mixes for them and record whole podcast seasons. With a pair of headphones, Robin can listen to a “Story Train” podcast during Iris’s naptime, while I get some focused homeschooling done with Sky.
What I love about the player: it’s super simple and durable. We’ve tried CDs and a boombox with the kids, and either they just don’t make them like they used to, or CDs have always been kind of a crappy medium (probably both.) The mini player has an “adventure jacket” that keeps it from getting dinged up, and it has just two dials and a power button, so they can really use it independently without damaging it. The cards are credit-card size, don’t scratch, and hold up well in a small organizing case. I don’t usually like to push products in this space but I genuinely love this thing and have found it so useful. If you do want to buy one, you can use our referral link for 10% off, which also adds “tokens” to my kids’ account, so they can choose new stories. Thank you for helping me homeschool and sneak in extra study sessions for acu school!
This is my favorite seasonal candle. A friend gave us one for Christmas a few years ago and we only recently burned the last of it. This was our first wooden wick candle and it did seem to last significantly longer. I love that the scents are named after Forest Park trails here in Portland. Most scented candles give me a headache, but this one didn’t. It smells natural and breakfasty and faintly woodsy, like pancakes cooked on a campstove. Yum.
I’d love to know: What are your favorite cozy-weather things? Candles or recipes, things to read or listen to? Or, tell me about a “winged gourd” period in your own life. Leave a comment or send me an email. Thanks for reading.