Putting a Little Spring in our Step

I do believe it takes living with -30 wind chills and knee deep snow to fully appreciate the first 70 degree days of spring. Minnesotans get it.

Our Saturday of soaking in 70 degrees prompted the biggest flurry of outdoor projects we’ve had in a long time, and made what was quite possibly, our favorite day this year. Sometimes, days slip by and I wonder what I accomplished, but then there are days like last Saturday, where we suck every last drop out of the day and knock out more projects than ever seemed possible.

It all started a few nights before. I woke up at 2 AM, not able to sleep with a long list of spring projects in my head. Of course, it made me mad to be awake. No kids are up crying or puking, so why am I awake thinking about putting the sleds away? Finally, I just got out of bed wrote down a spring to-do list. The stupid sleds then stopped plaguing me, and I got back to sleep.

Saturday morning, with sunny skies and a predicted high in the 70s, felt like the perfect time to start checking things off that list. It also helped that we had a pressing project to complete: the day before we picked up 55 shrubs and trees from the Soil & Water Conservation District.

The first project of the day was a chicken run. Our chickens spent the winter in the shed across from our house, and judging by their impatient squawking, they were quite ready to have a little more room to stretch out their wings. Our shed already had a little hinged chicken door, so my husband spent the morning using some old fence panels to build a little access route from their contained pen to the chicken door. By lunchtime, a rooster and his harem strolled around the yard snatching up shoots of green grass and and a few bugs.

I think I’ve written this before, but I’ll say it again because it still takes me by surprise: I completely love watching chickens wander around in the yard. I never imagined having any interest in chickens, but I’m becoming quite taken with them. There is something hypnotic and soothing about watching them go about their industrious business of hunting bugs and grass shoots. Sitting on the porch and seeing chickens wander in the yard just gives me that feeling that all is well. I rank it up there with watching bonfires and snow falls. I can’t quite explain it, but I do like those buggers, and their eggs.

Chicken access to outside? Check.

Our chickens enjoyed their new freedom outside.

Our chickens enjoyed their new freedom outside.

Before lunch, my birthday boy (who turned six on Saturday), cleared our sleds off of the porch making room for our summer porch table. Sleds away? Check.

He then helped haul the table legs upstairs from the basement, and by lunchtime, we had our first outside lunch of the season on our porch. That table is a freebie find from the curb during Citywide Clean-up last year, and it provided countless outdoor meals and project space last summer. After a winter packed away, seeing the table again made our porch feel like it’s open for summer business. Porch table set up? Check.

Our 6-year-old celebrated his birthday playing outside with his little brother.  He later helped set up our table in this spot.

Our 6-year-old celebrated his birthday playing outside with his little brother. He later helped set up our table in this spot.

We ate our first watermelon of the season outside on the porch at lunchtime. Granted, we needed jackets on in the breeze, but as Minnesotans with cabin fever, we felt completely happy to finally be outside.

After lunch, our three-year-old with glazed eyes and our inconsolable two-year-old both told me they weren’t at all tired. I went against their, uh, logic and tucked them in for a nap. That gave me three hours to work outside. That, my friends, is a little slice of heaven.

My husband, my oldest daughter and I spent the afternoon putting 25 June berry shrubs in the ground, along with 30 spruce trees.

To the untrained eye, those little spruce trees just look like an ordinary line of saplings, but they are in fact our Christmas Tree Farm. Some day when our kids are teenagers, we’ll go tree hunting right in our yard at Christmas time. Our kids will saw the tree down and drag it into the living room, leaving needles everywhere.

Then we’ll say to our oldest son, “Remember when we planted those trees on your sixth birthday? Look how big they are now!” And then we’ll repeat that again the next year and the next. It’s a long term plan, but I’m excited already. Who wouldn’t like to have their very own tree farm?

Someday, these little saplings will be Christmas trees in our living room.

Someday, these little saplings will be Christmas trees in our living room.

Working outside on a gorgeous day, doing something completely out of the usual routine…I had a blast. Maybe it felt fun because I didn’t do the hole-digging part, but best of all is the excitement of imagining what eventually will become of our afternoon’s labor. Someday we’ll have Christmas trees, and some day we’ll gobble up June berries by the handful. I can’t wait. Berry bushes and spruce trees planted? Check. Check.

Just before supper, we whipped up two pumpkin pies for my son’s special request birthday meal. My six-year-old birthday boy shaped and crimped one pie crust all by himself, and his big sister did the other one. While we accomplished a lot outside, our kitchen looked like we’d had a bomb go off. Ignoring the mess for the short term, we headed back outside to cap off the afternoon with supper on the porch.

And for birthday dessert, we ate warm pie topped with ice cream. Birthday supper? Check.

Our three-year-old told us the day was the best birthday of his whole life.

I laughed. No, it was not his birthday. It was his brother’s. But I had to agree, it was one of the best birthdays ever.

Happy spring, everyone! I hope you all enjoyed last weekend’s sunshine as much as we did.

Advertisements

Seven Lessons Learned in Seven Days‏

Children possess uncanny permanent marker detection…just one of the life lessons I learned this week.

Life’s been especially busy around here lately. My husband spent a week in Montana working on a scale monitoring system project while I took care of the kids at home. In the busyness, there’s plenty of opportunity for learning. Here are some lessons I learned in the last week:

Laying down together under the warm heat lamp, the new lamb and our three-year old.

Laying down together under the warm heat lamp, the new lamb and our three-year old.

Bears Knock Down Pictures
Our youngest child recently turned two. Every day, her growing vocabulary and creative exploits tell us more and more that she definitely is no longer a baby, but a real, live two-year-old. One of her most recent “milestones” is learning to stretch the truth.

A few days ago, I didn’t pick her up out of her crib right away when she woke up. With a few minutes to kill, she filled her time by undressing herself and emptying her crib of blankets.

I also noticed the picture that normally hangs above her bed was missing, so I asked her what happened. She looked at me very seriously, shook her head, and with a disgusted look, said, “Bear knocked it down, Mom.” Oh, the teddy bear did it. Of course.

If only baby books had a spot to record “Child’s First Fib.” I can’t say my heart swelled with pride, but I was a bit impressed by her convincing delivery. I’m sure with time, she’ll improve on her technique, and stop blaming her mishaps on inanimate objects like teddy bears.

Children Possess Uncanny Permanent Marker Detection
It’s a well-known truth that a bag left unattended will receive little attention from a child, unless it contains something inside that a child shouldn’t touch. Yesterday, my husband left his laptop bag on the floor. The laptop bag is a familiar sight, one that doesn’t generally draw much attention from our kids.

However, this time it happened to contain a blue Sharpie marker deep within.

While I was in the kitchen doing dishes, my busy two-year-old walked in to tell me, “Need a bath, Mom.” I turned around to see her, bare from the waist down, legs covered in long blue streaks that reached from one foot, up her leg, across, and down to her foot on the other side. She also had a big lovely patch of blue on her lower back.

This is a girl who loves the bathtub, and I do believe the coloring episode may have been premeditated with that end result in mind. I incorrectly assumed, however, that she used our kid-friendly washable markers. After she soaked for half an hour and still had bright blue streaks, I realized the marker was a permanent one.

After a little more questioning, she showed us the marker in her super secret spot behind the couch. She of course left the cap off, drying out the marker so we can no longer use it. The blue stripes of her body art, however, look as though they will last for quite some time.

Good tires are Worth the Money
On my husband’s drive to Montana last week, he drove through a big icy section in South Dakota. In one particularly bad spot where several cars lined the I-90 ditches, he lost traction and slid into the ditch himself.

We generally give very little thought to our car because we use it so rarely, and we were both amazed when we realized how old the tires were. After the ditch episode, our car received some much needed attention in the form of four new tires.

On Jarred’s trip home, he again encountered a long icy stretch in South Dakota. This time, however, the roads were even worse. Once again he drove past ditches lined with cars, but this time, his tires gripped the road and he arrived home safely. Good tires are worth the expense.

I Can’t Do It All
In the week while my husband worked in Montana, I held down the fort at home. I fed lots of things: our four kids, the fire in the wood burner, the goats, the bottle lamb, the chickens, the cats, and the dog. I cooked, cleaned, and kept life moving on as normal. Single parenthood is tough, even when it’s temporary.

I knew the extra workload and stress took it’s toll when, at the end of the week, I got a bad cold and ached all over. Even more telling was the fact that nobody else even had a sniffle.

Boring Anniversaries are Wonderful
On Saturday we celebrated our 11th anniversary. We pondered getting a babysitter and going out to dinner, but I was wiped out, and so was my husband after his road trip. We simply stayed home. All of us enjoyed the rare sunshine and nice weather that day, and we ate an easy meal of leftover chili for supper. We didn’t even get to our low key plans of watching a movie together on the couch, thanks to a certain two-year-old who had a rare rough night falling asleep.

After the big party we had last year where we renewed our vows, our kids were a little disappointed that our anniversary just seemed like a regular day. My husband and I, in contrast, thought it was a great day. A week apart gave us both renewed appreciation for each other, and we were happy to crash at the end of the day in the same bed.

Blessings Come in Strange Packages
On Sunday morning, I shook my head in disbelief at once again seeing a world of wintry white outside. I already felt sapped of energy from being a little sick, and the snow just made me feel exhausted as I pondered getting everyone ready and out the door in time for Sunday School and church.

Blessings, though, come is strange packages. Our neighbor called and jokingly wished us “Merry Christmas” and also told us that church was cancelled because of the weather. Instead of rushing out the door in the morning, I headed upstairs and filled up the bathtub. I soaked away the congestion, aches, and all of life’s tensions for about an hour. The magic of warm steamy water and a husband downstairs acting as ring leader of a cleaning operation greatly improved life. Turns out, the snow was just what I needed that morning. It was an unexpected blessing.

Persistence Pays Off
Lamba Lamba Ding Dong is our newest little project around here. He came from our neighbors who are too busy to feed a late-arriving bottle lamb. He arrived as a scrawny little thing that didn’t do anything but lay under the heat lamp and barely drink part of his bottle. A few weeks later, his growing body is filling out his skin, and he runs and greets us at the gate at feeding time. On nice days, our kids take Lamby outside and he follows them around like a loyal puppy.

A child shall lead them: Spot and our other "dog," Lamby, following their buddy.

A child shall lead them: Spot and our other “dog,” Lamby, following their buddy.

While the bottle feedings 3-4 times a day get tiresome, I do have to say that I’m a momma that loves seeing something grow from my care. It’s one of the most gratifying parts of my job. Nurturing definitely has it’s rewards.

Lamb, kids, tires, anniversaries ..that’s some of my life’s learning for this week. I just hope next week’s lessons don’t involve any more sniffles or permanent markers.

Written April 2013.

The Tale of the Missing Chicken Foot: A True Story

The feather-covered chicken leg, complete with a foot, laying near the welcome mat on the front porch one Sunday morning a few months back barely caught my attention.

It wasn’t until my husband questioned the chicken leg’s presence that it occurred to me that it wasn’t quite normal to have a stray leg just laying on our porch.

That’s how I know I grew up on a farm.

As a kid, we had pigs, beef cattle…and farm dogs. With farm dogs around, it was never especially surprising to see a random animal part laying on the lawn. Some of my best anatomy lessons came from deciphering what exactly it was that Buster hauled up on the lawn to chew. Disgusting? Yes. But it is honest. Farm dogs find the best chew toys in the least desirable places.

With that in mind, a stray chicken leg didn’t seem like any cause for alarm. Once my husband mentioned the leg, however, I had an epiphany, “Hey wait a minute, WE have chickens.” Generally speaking, that shouldn’t be much of an epiphany. In my defense, my mind was racing between getting kids out the door to church and then heading to Grandma’s.

Pondering the rightful owner of the chicken leg planted a sinking feeling in my stomach. Our dog is just naughty enough to not really be trusted to leave chickens alone. Gulp. While my husband loaded the wood burner, I headed to the shed to do a little animal welfare check.

Walking into the shed, a quick scan revealed our three chicken ladies were missing from their usual hangout on the gate railing.

Oh no.

I kept looking, expecting to see bits of chicken feathers or some sort of evidence of chicken destruction. Finally, my eyes found some relief. The three chickens were all standing close together on the floor.

Instantly, though, it stuck me as odd. They all seemed closely huddled together, were hanging out in a corner where I’ve never seen them before, and they were on the floor. Usually they prefer sitting up on a higher vantage point.

Then I saw it.

The middle chicken was standing on only one leg.

My heart sank. My mind raced in a million directions. What in the world do I do with a one-legged chicken? Do I have to put her out of her misery? And how should I do that? I really should know how to butcher a chicken. Can chickens live on one leg , like dogs can live with three? Could she maybe just hop from here on out?

As I pondered my predicament, I looked for blood spots on her and the floor. I couldn’t see anything, and surprisingly, she didn’t look like she was in pain. Perhaps she dropped the leg as simply as one of those lizards that can lose their tail? She seemed to adapt so quickly to the loss.

Soon enough, I had my answer.

When the two other chickens shifted slightly, she stirred and moved. As she shifted, she uncurled her leg that had been tucked up and placed it on the floor, as normal as ever. Yep, normal. Two legs, fully functional and intact. My life suddenly felt much easier.

 Beware of missing feet: Ideally, chickens should have two feet at all times, like the hen pictured above.

Beware of missing feet: Ideally, chickens should have two feet at all times, like the hen pictured above.

Turns out, she just tucked up her leg to be cozy on a chilly day.

As for the chicken leg on the porch, a nice man in a large blue truck relocated it to a more suitable long-term resting place.

We may never know the full story. All of the forensics experts seem to be occupied with other investigations. A coyote is a “person of interest” in the case. Last fall, a chicken disappeared on the very day that a neighbor spotted a coyote in the field next to our house. Neither the chicken nor the coyote have been seen since.

RIP Chicken foot. Long may you scratch in that big chicken coop up in the sky.

To My Kids on Mother’s Day

To My Kids on Mother’s Day,

On Mother’s Day, I want to tell you thank you for making me a mom.  Some mornings when I come down the stairs I don’t look very excited to be awake and making breakfast, and some nights I ask you if we can switch places and you can put me to bed.  Sometimes you drive me crazy.  But the truth is, I wouldn’t trade you for anything.

My kiddos and I making the best of the crazy May snowstorm by building a snowman.

My kiddos and I making the best of the crazy May snowstorm by building a snowman.

To #1, my seven-year-old girl:  I am so amazed by you.  I love your artistic, creative projects and paintings that you make and your beautiful handwriting.  You are so helpful when you know I need an extra hand.  I’m proud to have a little girl who is so thoughtful and considerate of other people and genuinely kind.  You are fun and silly and calm and quiet.  You are a wonderful, responsible big sister.  I love getting to run with you.  I also love hearing you read with such expression, and I love that you read the other kids bedtime stories.  You are so good at understanding other people’s thoughts and feelings, well beyond your years.

To #2, my six-year-old boy:  I just love the way your mind thinks about things.  You have such a clever, organized, imaginative mind.  You are my boy who will probably help me learn how to be organized.  Even when you are so sleepy in the morning, you take the time to fold up your pajamas neatly.  I love how you can design buildings and mechanical things in your head.  I love your crayon drawings of tree houses that you color in deep, bright colors.  I love that you ask to play a board game, with just you and me.  I love your fancy bike riding tricks.  And do you know what I really love?  I love seeing how much you love your little sister.  You can always make her smile.

To #3, my three-year-old:  I love your sense of humor and your little jokes.  You make me laugh.  I love to see the projects you create using your two favorite things: strings and hooks.  You are so creative, and I can’t wait to see the things you will make when you get bigger.  You are a sweet boy with a kind heart.  Sometimes you look at me with so much love in your eyes that I can hardly imagine someone could love me so much.  I love watching you run.  You bounce and skip across the grass so lightly that you look like you are floating.  I can tell you are thinking a lot because you ask good questions and you use big words when you tell stories.  I like reading with you on my lap before nap time.

To #4, my girl that just turned two: How did we ever get such a great little girl?  You are such a loving little person.  I love watching you take care of your babies: rocking them, singing them songs, and making nice beds for them.  Everyone just falls in love with you because you’re so friendly.  You like being held by so many people and you will give a hug to anyone that needs one.  You are also such a smart and funny little girl.  I love your silly dances and how you tell knock knock jokes, even when you’re nursing.  You make me laugh.  I love when you tell me the bathroom floor is “hot lava” and I can’t touch it, or when you pretend I’m “baby monster” and you try to take care of me.

Being your mom is a lot of work, but all of you are also so much fun.  I love watching you grow and learn.  It’s fun to look back at pictures of you from when you were babies, and see how much you’ve grown.  I love to see you learning your letters and learning to read.  I’m proud of how you are learning that being part of a family means that we all need to help out and love each other, even if we don’t always get along.

You might not know it, but I learn a lot from you.  You teach me to give even when I’m tired, and you help remind me to have fun and enjoy the best things in life.  And one of the best things in life is being your mom.  Thanks for being my kids.  

Love, Mom

Chariots of Fool’s Five

While I usually run alone, on Sunday I ran the Fool’s Five with my favorite running partner: my daughter.

Starting my count at 7th grade cross country, I’ve been a runner for 23 years. After high school, running became a mostly solitary adventure.

I like that about running. I don’t need a team to play. I just go out and do it. A few times a year, though, I like to stand on a starting line with hundreds or thousands of other people, run in a race, and collect a new t-shirt.

I have to admit, standing on a starting line often gets me choked up. It feels like checking in with the world. Days and years can blur together like a string of run-on sentences. Races, though, are like little exclamation points in life.

On the starting line, I wear a race number that often has my age printed on it for identification. Sometimes seeing my age in print surprises me because I seldom think about the number. Here I am: 34, female.

Seeing the number printed out often leads me tally up the rest of my life, too: eight zip codes, four kids, eleven years since college. It’s an easy way to mark time.

As for the Fool’s Five, it’s been sixteen years since I stood on the starting line in Lewiston. Sixteen years ago, I wore my Fool’s Five t-shirt to my last month of classes at RCTC, then wore that shirt a few months later in the dorms at Montana State.

Seven years ago at this time, I was nowhere near the Fool’s Five, but I was running. I still lived in Montana, about 950 miles west of Lewiston, MN. I had a brand new running stroller and a brand new two-month old baby girl to put in it for our very first run together. I dressed her in her “running suit” from a baby shower, teeny sunglasses and tiny baseball cap. I tucked her in with a cushioned head support and wrapped her in what is now her favorite blankie.

My daughter at two months, out for her very first "run" in 2006.

My daughter at two months, out for her very first “run” in 2006.

On the first quarter-mile, I walked the stroller cautiously over the big, jagged rocks of the gravel road where we lived. I was pretty sure bouncing over rocks that size would give her a case of Shaken Baby Syndrome. After waiting a long time for a baby, oh man, I certainly wasn’t going to turn her brain to mush by bouncing her stroller over those big rocks.

Once we reached the county line, the gravel ended, and I took off running on the smooth hard-packed dirt, just me and my new little running partner offspring. She rolled along napping in the sunshine and not even once did she careen over an embankment, despite my fears.

Freedom to run AND a happy baby? It was a little slice of heaven on a dirt road in Big Sky Country. I wondered back then if taking her running as a baby would influence her as she got older.

And now, this year, I had that same little girl pestering me to go online and register us for the Fool’s Five. We decided to do the one-mile together. It would be her very first race, and she was too excited to sleep the night before the run.

For whatever reason, the opening title sequence of Chariots of Fire came to mind, so I played the scene for her online. We watched the guys gloriously running barefooted on the beach in white t-shirts and shorts with THAT song playing in the background. I told her we were going to run just like they said in the movie, “with hope in our hearts, and wings on our heels.” Yep, we were running for the pure joy of being able to run.

We arrived at the race a little later than planned after bottle-feeding our new lamb. In addition to the wings on her heels, my daughter ran with some butterflies in her stomach, nervous that she’d miss the race. Hand in hand we weaved through the crowd, collected our race numbers after a computer glitch, and ran to the starting line.

When we showed up at the starting line, the front runners were already off and running, and I lifted her up high over my head to give her a quick view of the massive crowd of people all running together. Look at all those people! Cool, Mom!

Normally, I’d run for time in a race. This race, though, was all about a little girl running her first mile. We held hands for about half of the race, partly for security to weave through the crowds of people, and partly because it was just nice to be together, just the two of us.

We suffered a little setback early-on when we had a “Collision with Greatness.” After not running this race in years, I forgot that we needed to watch out for the lead runners heading back to the finish. Skirting too close to the right side of the street, my daughter got a hard elbow smack by the second or third place runner on his final sprint to the finish.

I take responsibility for that one. On his part, I know it was purely accidental. He probably didn’t even seen her. I understand when you’re running full speed, kicking in to the finish, you get tunnel vision. She got tears in her eyes and we walked for a minute or two, then she took off running again. Good to go.

The rest of the mile, she ran like a champ, and I don’t know who was more proud at the finish line, her or me.

My daughter, now seven, giving two thumbs up during the Fool's Five race.

My daughter, now seven, giving two thumbs up during the Fool’s Five race.

I have no idea what our time was, and I don’t care. We had a blast. We ran, weaved around people, she got clocked by a fast guy, and she finished the race with a tired, thirsty body and a big sense of accomplishment.

“Mom, I want to wear my race shirt to school tomorrow. I can’t wait to tell my gym teacher. Do you think the people watching could see that I was running really hard at the finish?” Yes, I definitely do.

Sunburns, Easter Eggs, and Amazing Grace

What in the world?!  There’s an antelope standing out there on the street!

If I can say that and it sounds believable on the morning of April Fool’s Day, I’m either A) in Montana or B) surrounded by people that could use some morning coffee.  Both A and B are correct.  We headed off to Montana the week before Easter to fill up on a dose of our Montana family that we’ve all been missing.

When left our house in MN to head off on the trip, I cautiously left behind our kids’ snow pants.  Leaving a yard completely covered in white, taking no snow pants felt a little risky.  As I drove across western South Dakota on an I-90 thickly covered in a sheet of ice, I again questioned my decision.

Snow-covered mountain plateaus in the distance and sweeping views on our drive on the snowy Hwy 212 in south-eastern Montana.

Snow-covered mountain plateaus in the distance and sweeping views on our drive on the snowy Hwy 212 in south-eastern Montana.

By the time we pulled into the driveway at Grandma and Grandpa’s house in Broadview, Montana, though, our kids were wondering why I didn’t think to pack their spring jackets.

We all know the heady rush of joy of feeling a 50 degree day for the very first time in the spring.  Imagine, then, what a few 60 degree days with blue sky and sunshine did for our kids (ok, and Mom and Dad, too).  With new kid-sized garden shovels in hand from the bargain bin, they struck out for Grandma’s perennial garden, making dirt fly.  I believe no tulips were harmed, but I can’t be certain of that.

Then they headed to the West side of her house where the grass never grows, and spent an afternoon cooking mud pies.  My three-year-old  gave me his detailed “recipe” if I wanted to try it later.  That evening, our kids came in with rosy cheeks and a fresh sprinkling of freckles on their cheeks.

Our oldest daughter even had a light sunburn.  Here I wondered about snow pants, when I should have packed the sunscreen.

The next day we met up with a friend (and former neighbor) to catch up over coffee while our kids ran around playing.  The temperature soared to the mid 60’s, and that, of course, is cause for shorts early on in the year.  Our two littlest kids shed their shirts as they played in the dirt pile out back behind my friend’s house, rubbing their bellies in the sunshine when the shirts came off.

Temps in the 60s: No shirt needed when digging in dirt while in MT.

Temps in the 60s: No shirt needed when digging in dirt while in MT.

After endless piles of snow and cold temps, I felt like we’d headed off on a tropical vacation.  We just headed to Montana to see our family, but the unexpected warm temperatures and sunshine?  Just what the doctor ordered.

In the melee of cousins, friends, and playing, a more somber note intermixed with it all as my mother-in-law made countless phone calls and trips to town to help organize her mother’s funeral.  After many years of painful illness, we all believe Grandma Carol is now at peace.  On Saturday, tucked right in between Good Friday and Easter, we attended her memorial service.

It was a touching moment to see my husband, his brother, father, and uncle stand together up front to play guitar and sing “Amazing Grace” and “Children of the Heavenly Father” during his grandma’s service.  The second song had special meaning as a song that was also played during Grandma Carol’s mother’s funeral (my husband’s great-grandmother).

Funerals are gathering places of family, and we caught up with my husband’s extended family, held his cousin’s new baby girl, heard about an engagement, and just reconnected with family that we never get to see often enough.

After the funeral, we gathered at my husband’s brother’s house on Mosdal Road.  Yes, the road has the family name.  We had amazing homemade pasta.  Most importantly, our kids learned a valuable lesson from their older cousins:  a package of Mentos candies shoved into a 2-liter bottle of pop make a terrific fountain.  The 10-foot geyser of pop on the gravel road was, no surprise, a definite crowd pleaser.

Mentos candies plus a bottle of pop and some cousins equals lots of fun.

Mentos candies + a bottle of pop + cousins = lots of fun.

Easter Sunday came with all the usual: clean, new Easter outfits, chocolate candy that streaks Easter outfits, church, loads of ham, a full house of family, and of course…THE hunt.  The Easter egg Hunt is a big deal in this family.  Like ripping open presents on Christmas morning, it’s a 10-minute event that kids wait for all year.

My sister-in-law and her husband live on “the home farm” where his grandparents used to live.  Hiding the Easter eggs used to be his grandfather’s favorite thing all year.  My brother-in-law told how he and his brothers used to find well-hidden eggs all summer long when they were kids running around on the ranch. That said, I’m sure as this new generation of pint-sized kids tore around the yard on the hunt for eggs, his grandpa, Carl, would have been quite pleased with it all.

Surveying the egg hunt on the ranch.

Surveying the egg hunt on the ranch.

Today, Easter candy mostly gone and leftover ham in the fridge, we are heading back home to Minnesota.  We will attempt to find and pack the stray socks and shirts that our kids scattered throughout Grandma’s house.  My three-year-old hook-obsessed son packed up his new treasure box: a small cardboard box filled with new key chain and carabiner treasures gleaned (with permission) from his grandparents.

We’ll head out on I-90 East hauling our crew back home.  Our kids are also picked up some souvenir coughs and runny noses from the latest germ bug in Montana.  We’ll leave behind their baby cousin, although my five-year-old did wish we could bring her and maybe just keep her little and cute forever.

With some luck, creative parenting, and a whole lot of patience, we’ll trek across 1,000 miles.  Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, we will pull into our driveway in Minnesota.  Our own beds will never feel better, and we’ll hopefully be filled with enough Montana family time to last us until the next trip west.

Say it with me: “At this time last year…”

You certainly heard someone say it this past week.  Maybe you even said it yourself.

Looking out at our sea of snowy white, below zero wind chills, seemingly endless Monday snowfalls, you probably took comfort in A) Your winter escape trip to a warm, sunny location or B) That memory of what our area looked like just one year ago at this very time.

No signs of spring around here, where the road signs are still up to their necks in snow.

No signs of spring around here, where the road signs are still up to their necks in snow.

Cue that springtime bird-chirping music.   Let your mind drift back to last year at this time, with record highs, sunshine, and green grass.

Last year at this time…
-Day lilies peeked out of the ground.
-Crocuses were blooming.
-Snow blowers already had a layer of dust on them.
-The sound of lawnmowers filled neighborhoods.
-Spring lambs played outside on green grass.
-Kids ditched their snow pants and boots, wearing shorts when they played outside.
-First sunburns arrived extra early on MN winter white skin.

The memory of last year at this time is permanently planted in my mind, too, but for other reasons.  March 25th marks one year in our home in Minnesota.

One year ago we said our goodbyes to our family and friends in Montana and pulled out onto the highway, moving out of my husband’s hometown.  We drove all night.  One year ago we showed up at Mom’s house just in time for Sunday brunch.  Surprise!  Nobody in Minnesota knew we were coming that day.

One year ago, on that warm, sunny, blue sky Sunday afternoon we pulled into the yard of our new home and I said to our kids, “We’re home!”  It had been six months since I’d seen that house, so it was like seeing it again for the first time.

March 2012: Tree climbing weather, no jacket required.  Our son climbed "Maple the Maple" for the first time at our new house.

March 2012: Tree climbing weather, no jacket required. Our son climbed “Maple the Maple” for the first time at our new house.

That afternoon one year ago, a lawn full of our kids and their cousins christened our new home by playing in the yard for the first time.  My brother-in-law spent the afternoon mowing our lawn that already looked overgrown at the end of March.

One year ago, I walked around our new house in dazed amazement.  In an exhausted stupor from driving through the night, I took in walls freshly painted by my family, beds set up, and furniture already arranged.  Our family here put in countless hours while we were still back in Montana.

I remember people asking me where I wanted things, but I really didn’t have any answers.  The whole scene felt surreal.  After years of searching for “the place,” and months of headaches with realty arrangements and banks, we finally arrived to stay at our new home.  One year ago on that day, I didn’t roll on the grass, or kiss the ground, but I certainly felt like it.

A year into our new home, we still love it here.  We are thankful for the many neighbors and new friends who welcomed us into the community, and made it easy to be a part of our new hometown.

A few days ago, my husband said he was once again struck by it all as he walked back from the barn one evening after feeding the goats.  Yes, we have goats now, that’s another story.  Looking across the quiet yard in the country, seeing a warm house with a snow-covered landscape all around, all silent and peaceful at dusk, it struck him all over again how much he loves where we live.

We both agreed, though, as pretty as the snow is, we’d love to look out across the green grass that greeted us one year ago at this time.  The groundhog said spring should be here by now, right?

On a related note, as winter (hopefully) wraps up, I just want to say thank you to everyone that drives snow plows, helping keep the roads clear this winter.  While all Minnesotans love to discuss and sometimes grumble about how bad the roads are in the winter, the truth is, I’m usually amazed by how bad the roads are NOT.  As tired as we all are of winter, I’m guessing snow plow operators are just as tired, if not more, of our hefty late winter snows.  Thank you for what you do.

I’m thankful that when a snowfall comes along, or when the wind picks up and makes new drifts, I never wonder if the roads will be taken care of, it’s just done.  I can’t tell you how many times I saw or heard a big orange snow plow going past our house this winter.

Thanks for those before dawn snow plow runs that got the road clear for my sister to get work at Mayo early in the morning so she can be the nurse during someone’s surgery. Thank you for making Minnesota winters easier and safer for all of us.

And finally, happy birthday, Mom!  Thanks for all of the Sunday meals!  Love you.  Kathy (AKA “Number 10”)

Written March 28, 2013