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Dear neighbors,

I know our house is the messy one on the block. The truth is our yard will never be pristine. Luscious grass and perfectly manicured flower beds aren’t going to happen . . . not while my kids are little. I’m OK with that because what we do have is far better.

Our house is where grass gets trampled by little feet, sticks are turned into swords, and trees become playhouses only the most agile can reach. Our driveway is a rainbow of sidewalk chalk drawings and notes scrawled in little handwriting waiting to be read by a child looking for a friend.

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Bikes and rollerblades are piled on the front lawnhere one minute and gone the next as kids run from yard to yard searching for the next fun activity. Scooters with strings tied to toddler ride-along toys sit at the curb, ready to give the next willing participant a wild ride. A T-ball stand in the front yard invites the whole gang over for a game.

Everyone is welcome in our yard.

To my 3-year-old, our landscaping is prime real estate. What could be better than dirt and rocks? It’s the perfect place to dig holes and play with trucks. He alternates between his excavator and his shovel, working hard to dig as big a hole as possible. He doesn’t give a second thought to where he throws the dirt when he lifts it out of the ground. The highest accomplishment is when the hole becomes so big he can climb down into it. The smile on his face is worth all those dirt stains the washing machine will never be able to remove.

He fills and dumps his toy truck over and over again, tracking dirt all over the walkway and into the grass. Before long, it covers the bottom of all the little feet running around. Footprints start to appear on the porch and garage floor. Dirt will be tracked through the house before nightfall, and I’m OK with that.

Let’s face it, kids have no use for perfectly trimmed shrubbery or weed-free lawns.

To them, dandelions are to be celebrated. They turn into glamorous jewelry and stunning hair accessories. When carefully collected and gathered into bunches, they are to be proudly displayed in a vase on the kitchen table. Clovers are for making tea to sell to their friends in exchange for leaf cookies or pebble soup. Berries are the fancy garnish for their mud pies.

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Painted rocks are the ultimate currency. Each one is painstakingly collected, cleaned, and decorated. Some have pictures, some have inspirational messages, and some just have blobs of color smeared on by a toddler. At our house, they are treated like treasures. The bright colors stand out against the dark mulch, and they create the one-of-a-kind rock garden my kids are proud to show off to anyone willing to look.

My yard may not make it into the next catalog, but to me, it’s perfect.

All I see when I look around at my messy, disheveled yard are the memories being made by the people I love.

For every hole in the ground, I see a happy little boy hard at work. Every weed is a little girl proudly displaying her homemade jewelry. The bikes and toys in the yard are a reminder that my kids have the privilege of growing up alongside good neighbors and even better friends. The colorful rocks littering the ground represent friendship and creativity while the dirty walkways and spotty grass are signs of a happy childhood filled with imagination and wonder.

Someday I may have a yard full of thick grass and beautiful flowers, but that day is not today. We have more important things going on here.

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Casey Wipperman

Casey is a stay-at-home homeschooling mom of three from Indiana. She loves spending time in nature and discovering new creative outlets.

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