Archive for Flowers That Talk

Flowers that talk – The Daffodil


When I asked  my talking flowers what a daffodil reminded them of, Miss Lily Ana (8)  said, “A daffodil looks like starfish singing. ”   Michael Aster (7)  said, “He hasn’t though about it”  and Lara Rose (12) said, “Daffodils look like God laughing through flowers.”  Indeed!

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Flowers That Talk – Making my own corn bread stuffin


I’ve talked in the past about parenting being the most competitive sport I’ve ever played.  I remember the day I quit the team; it was right before Thanksgiving 2004.


I was talking with a friend who is a super-mom.  She volunteers at the school, church, cleans her own house, makes sure her kids are well groomed and dressed.  I’m lucky if mine have socks that match as they head out the door…bad example, I don’t really care about that…I’m lucky if they have shoes that match.  My friend takes great pride in her accomplishments.  And if I was half as good as she, I would be proud of myself as well.


We were discussing our Thanksgiving plans.  In our short conversation, we discussed that we would both be home with our families, both had company coming and both were preparing the meal.  Since this is the one meal that I DO pride myself on getting to the table on time and in order, I played along in the conversation.  Let the competition begin!

Friend asks, “Do you have a fresh, organic Turkey?”  Yep, I reply.

“Do you serve fresh cranberry sauce?”  Yes, I say, muttering under my breath, fresh from the can.    At least I get the can with the chunks of cranberries.  I only get this type because the jelly one  – you know the one – the one that leaves can indentations when the cylinder-shape goo makes a vacuum suck as it’s leaving the can and hits the plate with a splat?  Those indentations are a dead give-away you didn’t make it yourself.

“Do you make a green bean casserole?”  Well, of course, my beans are in the freezer and cans of cream of mushroom soup and fried onions await!

“Do you make a sweet potato casseroles?  Yes, I do!  I make the same over-the-top concoction every year:  One part sweet potato, one part butter, one part marshmallow, and one part brown sugar.

“Do you make stuffing? ” Yes, I do, I actually do!  Yes, I can play on the team – at least for the stuffing inning.  I’m proud of my stuffing; it was passed down to me from my dad with my own variation added over the years. 

I could tell, she too, took pride in her stuffing.  She dwells deeper.  She says, “Do you make cornbread stuffing.”  Yes, I do – using Pepperidge Farm as my base.


 “Do you make you own cornbread to go into your stuffing?”  What? Who does THAT?  So I lie and say, “Yes, I do.”

A long silence follows.  She says, “You make your own cornbread for the stuffing?  Yes, I lie again, I do.  I felt ashamed.  I felt I needed to compete.  This was when I realized, I wasn’t any good at the game.


God bless her, she makes her own fresh cranberry sauce, perfectly browns a fresh organic Turkey, probably grows her own french beans for her casserole, and makes America’s best sweet potato casserole and yes, she makes her own cornbread before she makes her own cornbread stuffing.  She WINS!


I knew then, I couldn’t compete.  More often than not, now when I show up somewhere with food, I just say, “I bought it myself!”


Happy Thanksgiving from my flowers to yours!

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Flowers That Talk – The Hillbilly

There was a point during the weekend when I was looking forward to having a long Thanksgiving break.  The kids last day this week is Tuesday.  So for Wednesday, Thursday (Turkey Day), Friday, Saturday and Sunday we will all be home together.  David, my husband will no doubt work on Wednesday and Friday – officially and on the rest of the days he will no doubt work un-officially.  I will not be in a client’s garden (well, maybe on Wednesday), but will  spend some time over the break doing some writing (not blogging.) 


But then, Sunday afternoon as the sun was setting, the kids started their in-fighting, name calling, and general unrest.   I then wondered what 5 days of this was going to be like. 


As they were at it, my interest peaked.  It was the name they were using in their name-calling.  This one was new to me.  Lara Rose was calling Aster a Hillbilly. 


I couldn’t make any connection at first until I realized Aster lost a front tooth on Friday night.  So I guess that was what it was all about.  Let us not forget that stereotyping is not good, so to all the hillbilly’s please forgive us. 


Aster was crying at this accusation; he was very upset.  I asked him, “Why are you so upset?  Do you even know what a hillbilly is? ” Yes, he said, “It someone who doesn’t have cable.”


There you go, having someone accusing you of not having cable is just bad.




Story and photo by Helen Yoest

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Flowers That Talk – Lily learns were Candy Corn comes from


Today is the day I introduce my Lily to Candy Corn.    Lily thought Candy Corn was a really cool plant and that the flower was really pretty and she wanted to taste it.  Of course, I cautioned her that we don’t know if Cuphea micropetala was edible.  I asked Lily if she really thinks this is where Candy Corn comes form, and she says, “Yes.”  Lily also still believes in Santa.  As her gardening guide, I will break it to her one day that Candy Corn is just a plant and a man in red doesn’t come down our chimney.

Cuphea micropetala

Cuphea micropetala

Cuphea micropetala or the Candy Corn plant is a small evergreen shrub that hales from Mexico.
We are just on the edge where it will do well in our Zone 7b gardens.
My friend kk shared this with me from his garden at the coast.  It returns reliablely for kk.  This is the first year at Helen’s Haven, so we’ll see how it does.
Right now it is over 4 feet tall.   In the late summer through the fall, the flowers appreared starting out yellow then giving over to orange as it aged, with a two tone color of candy corn.
It is also a hummingbird magnet.
I took these photos in the morning.  In the afternoon, Lily fell off her bike skinning both knees, an elbow, and an ankle.   I tell her, her boo-boos were weeping and we needed to let them air out.  After a while, she tells me she named her boo-boos Weeping Willows.  It just goes to show, an introduction to the world of gardening builds knowledge and some really cool names.

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Flowers That Talk – A Stalker in the Garden

As I worked the garden on Sunday, I kept seeing a little head popping up here and there.  Even though I would call out by saying, “I see you”, in a sing-song voice, I got no response.  The head just ducked down hoping it was a bluff.  Or, it was part of the early training men know intuitively – deny, deny, deny.  Either way, he wasn’t going to out himself, but rather try another strategy.  Next thing I knew, he’s came around the house and stalked me from around the Southern Magnolia.  I saw him, but tried to ignore him.

He carries a wooden gun, a gun his Uncle Matt carved for him.  Wearing a hunting hat and his Gap down vest, he looks the part of a precision military man.  He was in his element.  I’m surprised he didn’t go to the grill and take the ashes to wipe all over his face.  I guess he hasn’t figured that one out yet…my lips are sealed.  

My husband and I really don’t know where he gets this.  We neither encourage it nor discourage it.  I can say this, we are not the example.   His first toys were guns that he either made into from Lego’s or re-purposed from a plastic golf club or built from a paper towel roll and some cereal boxes.  All were elaborate designs.  I will never underestimate what can be made with some recyclable paper products and duct tape.  This has been going on since day one.  No doubt, if I paid more attention, I would have noticed his baby blanket converted into a pup tent where he could bark orders to his plush toy bunny – or perhaps using the bunny as target practice.

The stalker, I’m referring to is No. 3, Michael Aster Philbrook.  His initials spell MAP.  It was my hope this would predestine him to travel.  Lily’s initials spell LAP, I guess I didn’t think through the predestine process well enough with her, cuz I don’t like where this could lead.   Lara Rose’s predestined initials have already proven true.  LRP, a jumbled mass of letters that relate to the state of her bedroom, a jumbled mass of clothes all over the floor, lamp, desk, and curtain rod.  The bed linens are in a twisted heap.  Drawers and closet door open to reveal, clothes half hung, if at all.

There is alot of good that comes from a child with military procession.  He says yes ma’am, no ma’am, opens the door for me, anticipates his, mine, and everyone elses next move.   The others are fond of saying, yeah, why, or nothing at all. 

Aster worked with me in my clients’ garden on Friday.  I try to schedule my workdays around the City of Raleigh’s yard waste pickup schedule.  Only the second time in this garden and he knows I’m racing the clock to get what I need cleaned up and at the curb before pick up time.  As I cut back the bed for the winter, he efficiently takes armloads full to the yard waste cans and then takes the cans to the curb.  He’s 7.  At one point, he hears a noise and tells me to, “Chop, Chop” telling me he hears the yard waste truck coming and we need to get the last of the debris to the curb.  “Chop, Chop”, I guess that is how I sound.  Just sounds different coming from a child still in single digits.

We play the stalking game for a while; he gets better at it, I get worse.  At the point he actually catches me off guard, I think, enough is enough and give him a job to do.  I teach him how to fill the “Dinner Bell” bluebird feeder with mealworms. 

I show him where I keep them in the refrigerator, how I have them double sealed, lest they get out among the rest of the food in the fridge.  Yes, I know they are dormant in there, but I can’t take any chances. 

We go to the feeder, open the bags, and put a few in on the tray.  Immediately, he says, “These aren’t worms, worms don’t have feet.”  Who knew?  I never looked close enough at a mealworm to notice, but sure enough they do have feet.  I later google to find that a mealworm is actually the larval form of the mealworm beetle.

He now knows this is his job.  Another job added to what he does already, set the table for dinner, take the recycle material to the containers, take the containers to the curb on Wednesday evenings, make his bed, clean his room, pack school snacks.  None of which I officially assigned him, just chores he has taken on himself.  To get Lily out the door in time, he will even carry her book bag to the van, ask if she needs other help.  One day, I even found him brushing her hair to help.  That was when I realized, I was raising a gentlemen;  he was a good as they get.  Such a sweet little boy too.  I said, “Buddy, I’ll finish her hair, you go take out the recycle.”  “Yes ma’am,” he says, I’m on it.

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Saturday November 8, 2008 Mom Strikes Fear in an Eight-Year Old Boy

Yep, kids say the darnedest things, but sometimes so do moms. 

I didn’t mean to,  but I struck fear in an eight-year old boy.  The little boy happens to be my little Lily’s love interest. 

I have a defective gene in that I can’t remember any ones name.  This is a well known fact.  I’m at my children’s school doing my volunteer hours, one hour at a time, helping out at chess club.  I’ve done various jobs to garner my requisite 20 hours.  For the last 2 years, I choose chess club.  When I was still a team player, I oversaw major obligations that took up to 100 hours a year in hopes I would be able to bank them.  No such luck.  Upon realizing this, I decided to play by the rules and offer up no more than was necessary. 

Chess club is every other Tuesday after school.  Part of my job is to hand out the name tags.  Since I can’t remember who any ones name, I go around and ask for their name and shuffle through the name tags and pass them out.  I get to John Thomas and say, “John Thomas, here’s your tag.”  John Thomas responds, “Hey, how did you know my name?”  So I say, “John Thomas, don’t you know who I am…I’m Lily’s mom and Lily LIKES you.”  The fear is in this little boy’s eyes.  He immediately looked at his chess partner to see if he heard me too and the look on that child’s face, said yes.  John Thomas and his partner had the exact look on their faces.  No one, but no one discusses who LIKES whom, especially teachers or moms.

I was waiting for some horrible fallout from this.  I choose not to tell Lily my indiscretion.  No need to worry her unnecessarily.  When I picked her up from school the next day, I waited to find out if what I said was all of the school or worse, that John Thomas no longer LIKED my Lily.  She would be so disappointed in me, and rightfully so.

There was no fallout.  They still LIKED each other.  No need for her to know her mom has a big mouth, so mums the word…

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Sunday, November 2, 2008 Flowers That Talk

FLOWERS THAT TALK – And they say the darnedest things…

Yes, that’s right!  I have  three of them.   Lara Rose (12), Lily Ana (8), and Michael Aster (7) are my flower muses.  

This is a sub-blog about my children, all flowers with varying interest in Helen’s Haven.  This is their garden too, spending a good part of their free time in the garden even if it is only the Children’s Garden which is really their play area that I’ve hidden or disguised with plantings.  

Below is the background to the muse – this is the yadda, yadda, yadda part to the story.  To skip this part, just scroll down to THE MUSE. 

Early on in my life cycle as a mom, I learned that parenting was a very competitive sport.  Like any sport, there are different positions on a team and some that are better at the game than others.  If you choose to play on the team, you may find that you sit on the bench a lot, but that’s OK, because you are still a player.  Others play a lot, or if you are really lucky, you may be first string.  I chose not to play at all.  That was all fine and good, until my kids got to school and that is where the real pressure is applied. 

It’s not so easy to not play at all.  I was reminded of this when I went to a child’s open house.  This usually occurs around the 2nd week of school.  Here you get to meet the teachers, other parents, and see where your kid sits.  Mine always starts out the school year at some random location and then ends up in the front row.  Depending on the child, this may have been because they had a taking problem, or were teachers pet. 

During the open houses, I would go in, give the required face time and try to leave unnoticed.  But, what I found was, you can’t leave unless you sign up for SOMETHING. 

I’m thinking there is no way around this, I’ll sign  up for something that I can buy and give to the kids to take in.  This gets me off the hook.  I am wowed by the hierarchy of assignments.  I notice there is a Social Chair.  This is the parent who will organizes all the parties throughout the year.  She is looking for a Co-Chair.  The Social Chair serves under the Room Parent along with an assortment of other important Chairs to ensure your child’s school year is well organized – outside the classroom work.  And we wonder how bureaucracy begins…

Under the Social Chair, there was a need for parents to be responsible for several of the social functions throughout the year.  I choose Halloween and signed up to bring in cookies.  In hindsight, I probably could have even gotten away with a lesser role such as napkins, paper plates, etc., but I haven’t developed my full strategy skill set as of yet.

I’m not sure, but for this class (6th grade), I think I’m done for the year.  This is an important responsibility…nay, it is a major responsibility,   What if forgot or didn’t do it?  31 cookie recipients would not have received cookies.  Who do you think they would have taken this out on?  My child, of course.  It’s bad enough, my child will be judged on the cookie I choose to bring in for the party.  What if noone likes sugar sprinkled pumpkin cookies and they call my kid the L word when really, I’m the Loser for not knowing any better.  Oh, and yes, I was told to bring in 31 cookies.

I went to the Harris Teeter and bought two trays of pumpkin faced, sugar sprinkled cookies. 
The cookies were sold in 24 cookie counts.  What’s a mom to do, so I bought 2.  With more than 31in the bunch, I pulled 9 out.  This still left some extras, but I sent the remainder in anyway.  I’m sure sending in more than the 31 count got me noted as a mom not being able to follow instructions well.  They’re right.  

The cookies themselves brings we me to my muse.


We are car pooling to school on Halloween.  Number 1child (Lara Rose) is the one taking in the cookies.  She asks me, “if I could choose, would I prefer a cookie with sprinkles or frosting.”  Frosting, I say.  She says, she prefers sprnkles.  No. 2 says she likes chocolate frosting on chocolate cookies.  Aster, No. 3, says he likes, “Any on any.”    As so it goes…

Happy Holloween – Having a devil of a time trying to keep these three kids social schedules straight.

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Flowers That Talk – What little a boy values

What little a boy values


Heavy rains last night gave way to clear skies and low humidity this Labor Day.  As the Philbrook family loads up bikes for an early morning ride, Aster, ever ready, has to wait for everyone else.  Espying something shinny in the stone path, he finds little bits of broken stone.  It’s shinny.  Excited to know what it is, he asks Daddy, “mica” he tells Aster. 


As parents, we drill into our kids heads that first they will go to college, and second we need to be saving for it.  Aster, 7,  is the best little worker ever.  Eagerly he sets the table for dinner, he is in charge of the recycle – both taking items to the bins and taking the bins to the street each week.  Up until recently, he hadn’t put a value to his good deeds, since to him, they were just that – good deeds.  After doing one of Lily’s jobs (emptying the dishwasher, a job that doesn’t ever seem to get done by her) he thought that since he was now doing someone else’s work, perhaps he should be paid for it.  Indeed!  I gave him a dollar.  Aster say’s “Wow, will you put this into my college fund.”  That my son!  I did.


So it no surprise to me as I returned from my walk, Aster comes to share with me his new find – mica.  “Wow, buddy” I say, “that’s awesome.”  He hands it to me as says, “Here, put this in my college fund.”  I did.


Helen Yoest (Philbrook)

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