Summer Vacation for Mother’s Day

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Dirt under my fingernails, dandelion pollen on my neck, a little baby slobber on my shirt, homemade cards on my table. That is all I’ve ever wanted for Mother’s Day.

“Are we on summer vacation now?” my kindergarten daughter asked me this weekend. Decked out in a swimming suit, she was running around in the warm sunshine at a park on Saturday, sliding down the slide and eating an ice cream sandwich as a treat. I understood the feeling completely. It did feel like summer. She knew they hadn’t had the official last day of school, but dressed in a swimming suit, school felt like a distant memory, even though she was there just the day before.

I call that a pretty great Mother’s Day weekend. It’s a little late, but happy Mother’s Day to everyone! Thank you, Mom, for making a welcoming place where we can gather every Sunday and get together with family. Thank you, Cheryl (Jarred’s mom), for being the wise one who started Jarred on mashed potatoes early and for making our kids feet cozy in winter with wool socks. And obviously…to both of you, thank you for so much more.

As for me, with weather that felt like summertime and with a full weekend of good things, I couldn’t ask for anything more. On Friday and Saturday I got to dig in the dirt and shovel rocks, weeding the hostas and reviving some landscaping on the side of the shed. It’s a project I’ve been wanting to work on for years (literally), but was one I just had to let go last year with a new baby. And as my neighbor astutely pointed out, finishing a project like that is all the more gratifying because it lasts. A job well done on laundry, cleaning, or a meal lasts only hours, or sometimes minutes, but with any luck, that landscaping should last a long time.

On Saturday afternoon we watched my oldest daughter’s dance performance at school. While she was doing some hoe down moves to “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” my eyes were getting a little misty sitting there watching. Getting to have that moment of seeing my daughter up on stage in a cute costume and giving a dance performance her all…that is a pretty great reward. It’s the very visible reminder of why I made those weekly trips to town after school, loading 3-6 kids up in the car and delaying supper for dance practices.

We ended a very summery Saturday with a bonfire. For the occasion, I literally blew the dust off the bottle of Jose Cuervo in the back of the cupboard and officially re-opened margarita season. Last year between the heat of summer and nursing a newborn, my cocktail of choice was water on the rocks, by the gallon. An occasional margarita on the porch on a summer Saturday night is pretty wonderful, though, and always reminds me of the summer I worked in a Mexican restaurant.

All combined, it made a wonderful end to a great day: a first margarita in nearly two years, a fire, a beautiful night. We even had technologically enhanced star-gazing. With my brother’s Google Sky app, we could hold his phone up anywhere in the sky, and the stars and planets would show up labelled on a chart. It was amazing, no more guessing about Mars or Venus or the North Star.

After a full day with landscaping and dance and just being busy, I could have gone to bed at 8:30 and easily fallen asleep, but on a beautiful evening, it’s hard to pass up spending time outside. Sitting outside until nearly midnight with just shorts and a t-shirt feels like being set free after winter jackets and mittens. Ah, (almost) summer…

On Sunday for Mother’s Day, I once again had the reminder that I’m in a pretty choice position. With four kids in elementary school, I got a mother lode of handmade presents: a painted pot with a marigold and an original “Mom” poem, a coupon book for favors like cleaning and five-minute back rubs, a not diamond but “dime-on” necklace made of clay with a dime stuck inside, and a laminated paper locket necklace with a school picture inside. The kids also made presents at Sunday School, so my flower garden now has five hand-painted clay pots made into garden lights by flipping the pots upside down and tucking solar lights in the drain holes. I love them.

I’m sure I’ll enjoy the other stages of motherhood, but having a crew of elementary aged kids is so much fun. I love the honest, sweet simplicity of presents made in school and kids that are so excited to give a gift. For days ahead of time, the anticipation builds: “I am making your present! You are going to LOVE it!” I always do. My first grade son wanted the gift to be a surprise so much that he actually told me he forgot the gift at school, and all along it was hiding in his underwear drawer, where he thought I’d never see it. He was right.

My kindergarten daughter was so excited that immediately when she got off of the bus on Friday, she ran to me and had to give me my Mother’s Day gift. I asked her if maybe we should wait, but she couldn’t. She doesn’t know it, but having a little blonde girl flying off the bus bursting with excitement to give me a present is the best gift she could give me.

Being up on Saturday night later than usual, all I really wanted on Sunday morning was to sleep, maybe all the way until 8:00. One by one as my kids woke up, though, the bedroom door opened and in walked someone with a present in hand. If someone interrupts my sleep with a present, well…I can’t really complain about having that kind of blessing in my life. As for my two youngest kids, they have no clue what Mother’s Day is, but our baby gave me plenty of slobbery kisses and my two-year-old daughter celebrated the day by wearing three of her favorite dresses. That’s just right.

Not only did I get two necklaces made by my kids, but I also received a dandelion and lilac woven necklace, artfully crafted by Jarred when he took kids to the park on Sunday. He read my article last week and said “I didn’t know you liked dandelions. THAT is easy!” Move over Hawaiian leis, I received an authentic Minnesotan dandelion lei, very fancy, indeed. Holding a fussy two-year-old, my dandelion necklace broke relatively fast, but my admiration of it remains. Later, the topic came up of my necklace and someone said “Oh, that explains the yellow stuff on your neck.” Yes. Dandelion pollen. I really do shower, honest.

Dirt under my fingernails, dandelion pollen on my neck, a little baby slobber on my shirt, homemade cards on my table. That is all I’ve ever wanted for Mother’s Day.

Written May 16, 2017.

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Dandelions and Marshmallow Guns

When it comes to dandelions, the world pretty much divides into two camps: love or hate. Flower or weed. Cheery springtime yellow flower or scourge upon the perfect lawn. People even divide up into particular neighborhoods about dandelions. Okay, perhaps it’s not just about dandelions, but the preferences are often clear. Drive around in the springtime, and you’ll know by looking at the lawns. On one block you might find dandelions in every yard, and in another neighborhood, a dandelion is an embarrassment.

What a shame. Not liking dandelions, that is. To me, dandelions are one of the welcome signs of spring. If my kids don’t pick enough dandelion bouquets for me, I sometimes go out and pick some on my own.

As a senior in high school, when it was time to pick the class flower, I campaigned for the dandelion. Think about it…local, abundant, blooming at graduation, free. What’s not to like? I don’t remember ever actually voting, but in some sort of non-democratic fashion we wound up with a teal-tipped white rose as the class flower instead. I’m still disappointed.

People claim that dandelions aren’t real flowers, but I am certain that teal-tipped white roses do not exist in nature, and therefore are the ones that are “not real flowers.” I don’t lose sleep over the class flower issue, but it does sometimes pop into my mind in the spring when the dandelions reappear. And over 20 years later, I mention it in the newspaper because I still think dandelions are beautiful.

And right now, dandelions are in their prime: in full bloom, no messy-looking seed heads, just glorious yellow everywhere. I truly love this time of year more than any other time. In May it feels like the world is in the peak of springtime: days of blue sky and loads of sunshine, grass is lush green, apple trees are beginning to bloom, the tulips are out, dandelions blooming. It’s school field trips, graduations, open windows. Everything just feels alive with springtime, and the excitement of summer right on the horizon.

On the Run
On Saturday when I went running, everything around seemed full of that springtime life. At one point on my 3-mile loop there was a point when I was struck by it all. Heading up the incline of a small hill on a gravel road, to my right was a hay field, vibrant green dotted all over with the yellow blooms of dandelions, on my left was a freshly planted field, as deep, dark and rich as soil gets….the soil so rich that you almost want to eat it. In front of me, the sun shone right down directly in front of me on the road, and all around the sky was a deep blue.

For a second, I literally stopped in my tracks, and I wondered if heaven looked something like that. That of course made me think about my brother Mike up there. After my run, I sat down on the porch swing for the first time in a long time, feeling pretty darn lucky for the place I call home and for the people I have here with me.

Party On
This weekend, our home was especially lively. Add four extra 10 year-old boys for a birthday party on a beautiful Friday evening, combine it with our six kiddos, and the energy of kids in spring burst from every corner:

Two gallons of lemonade guzzled, a trampoline in constant use, outside cats getting hauled into the house and carried around, two big homemade pizzas devoured, one giant chocolate chip cookie evaporated. A marshmallow gun gift resulted in children, cats, and chickens all getting pelted. Bonfire with a Lord of the Flies-like swarm of boys all around, a few bonus fountain fireworks lit off, kids in sleeping bags filling up the living room. Sounds finally quieting around midnight. Waffles, blueberries and whipped cream for breakfast, and strong coffee for parents.

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Trick candles on a giant cookie cake seem like fun…until nine kids blow all over the cookie.

And the remnants of the party: one dirty sock of unknown ownership, marshmallows scattered all over the yard but soon cleaned up by willing chickens, staying up late Friday night turned into all eight people in our house taking Saturday afternoon naps. Lots of good memories.

It feels like with May we are finally getting the sunshine that we didn’t seem to see all winter. If I could, I’d completely cease all indoor projects and just stay outside. (Can I just stop doing dishes until winter?) Sunshine in May makes the classic rock on the Sunday drive seem all the better and the return of sundress season all the more welcome. Bring on the long days of light and extended evenings. We have a full list of plans in the works for the summertime. How much can we squeeze into three months? As much as possible.

Of course, we need to have plenty of time for the important things like picking dandelions and pelting one another with a marshmallow gun. Next time, I get a turn before the marshmallows run out. Pow pow pow!!

Written May 8, 2017

The Flurries of Springtime

DSC_1422 (2)Springtime in Minnesota: on the radio this afternoon I heard that the Twin Cities area has snow, and in one month, the kids will be out on summer vacation. I can’t seem to decide if I should keep mittens available or start filling the dresser drawers with shorts again. My ten-year-old keeps asking to wear shorts to school on any given morning that the weather looks even remotely pleasant, and by “pleasant” he considers anything above 40 degrees to be acceptable. Perhaps some mittens with his shorts?

Last spring I remember being in baby mode at this time of year, with our little guy arriving at the end of May. This year, though, spring is taking me by surprise. Right up until Easter, all of my thoughts were centered around making a trip to Montana for Easter. Something about packing up a family of eight, driving 950 miles one way, and being gone from home for a week just seems to fill all my time and thoughts. Spring and summer plans about everything else just went to the wayside.

My epiphany moment was literally when we pulled into the driveway at home at 5 AM after the all-night drive home from Montana. That was the moment that it really struck me that April was nearly over, and at the time, it was about six short weeks until summer vacation. In a few short weeks, the relative quiet of two little kids at home during the day will be replaced by six busy kids, all here, all the time.

And now, I feel like I’m in catch up mode. The flurry of a big trip really just makes the next few weeks become a complete blur. Every day I think “today I’ll get a good nap to catch up” or “today I’ll get in bed early,” and then it just doesn’t happen. I make meals, I get kids on the bus, I wash load after load of laundry, I pick up messes, but I couldn’t hardly tell you what day it is.

Last week my schedule filled in with four separate trips to a doctor’s office: an ENT visit, an audiology visit, a well-child check for my oldest daughter, and as a bonus, the strep throat that I had at Easter came back, so last Tuesday I had a visit for myself. The nurse offered that I could just get a shot of penicillin, and that sounded way more appealing than trying to remember a pill three times a day for ten days, so I took her up on the offer. One shot? Simple. No problem.

As I walked into the room for my shot, I planned to roll up my sleeve until she said, “It’s going to go in your butt.” Oh. Wait. What?!?! They still do that?? She mentioned the needle was pretty big and guys say it hurts quite a bit, but I also needed to make sure I kept my muscles relaxed. Oh, yes, of course, I feel very relaxed. It’s funny how quickly I wasn’t quite as excited about my “once and done” shot. I did decide though, that if I could handle giving birth six times with no pain medication, I’d probably be okay with a shot in the rear.

I will say, though, for the first two days afterward, I couldn’t really decide if it was my throat or my back side that hurt more, but neither one felt very spectacular, and I wasn’t very excited about any of it. Around day three, though, that shot really seemed to kick in and made life turn around. As the week went by, I kept wondering why I felt so tired, and I’d remember that I still had strep throat. Oh yeah…

I had to get better by the weekend, though, because this past weekend happened to be Girls Weekend at my sister’s cabin on the Mississippi. It’s one of my favorite events of the year. As the schedules worked, unfortunately none of my sisters-in-law could make it, but my sisters were all able to come for the evening. For a few hours six sisters sat around a fire. That’s pretty special indeed to not only have so many sisters, but to be able to get together with all of them for an evening and that four of us could stay overnight to enjoy coffee and omelettes together in the morning.

For one evening and morning, the only little person I took care of was my baby boy who goes along with me everywhere since he’s a nurser. Meanwhile, my husband and five kids stayed home. As a bonus, they got to spend some extra time with Jarred’s dad, AKA Grandpa David. David recently retired and bought a kit airplane that he plans to tinker on and build. The plane parts he bought happened to be in Iowa, so it all worked out perfectly that the owner of the parts agreed to deliver his plane parts to our house, and David will load them up onto a trailer here at our house and then take them all back to Montana to build.

In the meantime, while Jarred and David are working on reconfiguring the trailer and on some of the plane parts, we get a little bonus visiting time with grandpa here. Our kids only disappointment is that Grandma Cheryl stayed in Montana because she is a school bus driver, so they’ll have to wait until summertime for her to be able to come and visit.

So, with a busy house and lots of activities, we’re quickly spinning toward summer vacation. Just yesterday I signed a permission slip for an end-of- the-year school field trip and sent in a registration form for my oldest daughter to go to 4-H camp this summer. My oldest son had a birthday last week, turning double digits…the big 10. He’s got birthday party plans on his mind and asked if he could have a sleepover for his party this weekend. Add four more 10 year-old boys for an evening? Oh boy. That’s just a little bit of the flurries of springtime around here right now.

Happy May, everyone!

Written May 1, 2017.