Berry-Stained Fingers and Firefly Nights

If I could freeze time, I would capture these summer evenings.
Evening is when everyone in our house becomes alive.  With no central air, we flee outside to soak up whatever breeze we can glean from the humid air.  Pretenses of work inside get turned off for the day, or at least paused momentarily.  Supper is on the porch, usually something off of the grill with fresh fruit and veggies on the side.  We tame the hungry beast in our bellies and fill our eyes with long, straight rows of corn fields.
After supper, already outside, our kids naturally drift to the yard and we follow.  Our evenings, from after supper until dark, slip by all too quickly in the slow, easy way of a summer evening in the country with kids.   Weeding and checking the garden, heading to our windbreak to pick black raspberries, shirtless kids climbing Maple the Maple (yep, they came up with that all by themselves), sweaty ponytails, berry juice dribbles on our baby’s belly, making grassy nests for the snoozing baby chicks, sand scooping and flinging, legs pedalling bikes with increasing strength and confidence, “race ya” barefoot running across wide open lawn…these things fills our evenings.

Bandit the chick snuggled into a soft grass nest made by her 6-year-old caretaker.

Then as the evening cools, the sun sinks behind the trees and the fireflies emerge.  We run on firefly time.  After catching a satisfying amount of fireflies, we head into the house for the evening, often capping off the night with a bowl of ice cream.  After that, we shoo the kids upstairs to the claw foot tub to wash off the sweaty heads and dirty feet.  They put on the bare minimum for pj’s, and migrate to the sun room, turning the ceiling fan on high and throwing open the windows to catch the breeze.
Lately, our kids settle down for a bedtime story from the unwieldy, thick yellow book of The Complete Collection of Curious George.  Jockeying over position on the guest bed (just a mattress on the floor, but oh so cozy), trying to be close, but not so close that we get sweaty, and taking in a little monkey’s adventures with my little monkeys caps off the evening before goodnight hugs and kisses.
Last evening was a rarity in that I actually had two kids in bed before the sun went down.   Our tired baby girl went to bed early since she passed on her afternoon nap, and then I tucked into bed her almost three-year-old brother, who got into a patch of nettles and wanted to call it an evening.  After a full day of holding kids and nursing, I then headed outside to the windbreak all by myself to pick black cap raspberries.
As I left the house, I caught a glimpse of the sunset between the thick pine trees, so I walked to the road to get a better view.  I stood alone on the warm pavement looking out into slowly fading pink-orange sky and rich green corn fields.  After a strong wind all day, I was struck by the sudden calm and utter quiet.  Just before nine at night, there was not a car on our road, and the world seemed at peace.

I headed to the windbreak where the bushes are covered in berries: deep purple and red against verdant green leaves.  It’s the kind of lushness that you drink in and store away to pull out in the dead of winter. The gnats stayed away long enough to pick a big night time snack that I meant to share, but it didn’t quite happen.  I meandered past the neighbor’s sheep who are industriously munching away the overgrown weeds on our land.  In the fading light, too dim by then to pull weeds in the garden, I did a little side saddle hop over electric fence.

When I looked out, the fireflies were everywhere, a profusion of gentle blinking of warm lights across our entire yard.  I don’t know if it’s a particularly good year for fireflies, or if they’re always like this, but they’e magical to me all over again.  Fireflies don’t live in Montana, so I haven’t seen them much in the last 14 years.  Standing in the fading light, throwing berries in my mouth by the handful, contented sheep busy munching, life just felt surreal.  All by myself (also magical), the soft glimmering of fireflies blinked in such an abundance that it looked like the kind of scene from a Holywood movie depicting an imaginary glittering land, only this is all the better because it is real.
And that’s the reality that I want to live in for the summer.  Right now I can’t tell you about the latest of the news headlines, and I don’t really care.  I know that terrorists, wars, arguing over politics, and discussions about the economy and who is to blame will all be there waiting for me whenever I feel like going back to them.
What I do know is that this is summertime, and we are in the midst of the golden years of childhood in our home.  I feel completely blessed to look across the yard and see four small children playing together, inventing games, and watching out for their baby sister.  I also know this doesn’t last.  As quickly as our lives became bustling with children, they are just as quickly going to grow up.  Thirty years from now when my kids grown and long gone, I won’t care one bit about the stresses and messes inherent in the life of a family. Those things fade away. Summer nights of seeing my children grow and flourish amongst berries, fireflies, and running under the sheets on the clothesline are the things I want to etch in my mind.
So, the latest headlines will have to wait.  I’ve got four little kids that aren’t going to be little forever and warm summer days that will quickly fade into fall.  We’ve got a whole lot of living to squeeze into our endless summer days that are all too short.
Written July 2, 2012.

© 2012


The State of Our Moving Address

Written March 11, 2012.

Not yet, but soon. That’s the short answer. The question, of course, is “Did you move yet?”. My mom, who works at the library in St. Charles, tells me that as people figure out I’m a Kramer and her daughter, they’ve been occasionally asking about our moving status. So, this week, I’ll give my State of the Moving Address.

We’re all emotionally ready to move. Our two-year-old has been sorting out an impending move in his own way for several weeks now. Every morning he gets up, crawls into our bed, pulls back the curtains, and scans out at the town from our second story window in Broadview, Montana, and proclaims, “I see our new house in ‘Minnetota’!”

Seeing our things loaded up into a trailer and then pulled behind our pickup by his dad also made a lasting impression on our little boy. Several times a day he hops on his little battery-powered 4-wheeler, and behind him he proudly tows his own trailer: a cardboard box rigged up to the back of the 4-wheeler with a piece of rope. He loves to load up his “trailee” and tow it around the living room, telling us he is moving things to the new house in Minnesota. Endlessly helpful, our two-year-old moved our shoes, several pounds of clementines, various kitchen gadgets, and the mail to Minnesota, all without ever leaving the living room.

As for our real business, we still have a few big items to check off our list before we can head east on I-90 to our new place. One major project is Jarred’s scale and hopper installation project at a grain elevator in Billings, MT. My husband is a self-employed engineer, and for him, this project has the combination of mental challenge and hands-on fabrication that delights someone who grew up immersed in Legos and Tonka Trucks. He models up a design on the computer and then makes it all come together in real life, assembled with boom trucks and cranes. This is his sandbox.

Clear blue skies on the day the crane lifted two new steel hoppers into place at the elevator in Billings, MT. When Kathy’s husband finishes this project, the family will head to MN.

Like any big project, the finish date for this scale installation is an estimate at best. The grain elevator is anxious to be fully running again with spring in the air, and we are anxious to be heading to our new house. Jarred thought the installation could be done a week ago, but with design change requests, he still has about a week to go before the scale installation and custom computer program are all up and running. Once that project is done, we’ll load up our trailer again with the remainder of Jarred’s shop equipment and our house things, and head to our new place, where we’ll settle in and he’ll continue growing the 35 year-old family business of scale fabrication.

As for me, I’m trying very hard to be patient while we get projects wrapped up. If patience is a virtue, then I’m not a very virtuous woman. It feels like cabin fever, short-timer’s disease, and wanderlust all mixed together. I just know our house in Minnesota is excited to see us.

I’m also excited to move on because I’m living in a sort of self-inflicted isolation from the outside world for the last few weeks (if you can call four kids at home isolation). I gave up facebook for Lent when I decided I spend too much time and get too little enjoyment on that website. I’m also at home even more than ever. My husband gets our groceries while he is in Billings, so that eliminates the need to load up the kids and head to town. And, our kids were home last week after having their last day of school here in Broadview the week before. That means I don’t even need to leave the house each morning and afternoon to shuttle kids to and from school.

My connection to the outside world also got a little more cut off when our tv, my favorite news source, left our house and went to MN. Jarred takes our laptop with him on the job site most days, so the internet is also usually gone from our house. I do have my smart phone, but really, trying to watch Brian Williams tell about the latest in Afghanistan on a broken internet connection and a teeny little screen is not really all that smart.

So, I’ve got no tv other than a few over-played children’s videos, only sporadic internet, no facebook, and no need to leave the house on a regular basis. Sometimes I’m not sure that all this time left to my own thoughts is entirely a good thing. On the other hand, I don’t have any plans to create my own extremist regime, I don’t live in a house with 40 cats, and I don’t walk around wearing feather boas with sweat pants (usually), so I think I’m probably ok for now.

The upside of having myself isolated from outside distractions is getting our projects done at home, and maybe we will get our rental deposit back after all. The iron burn on the carpet gets repaired tomorrow! And last evening in my “free time” while cooking chicken for supper, I repainted a dining room wall with three kids clamoring to help and a fourth kid in a high chair shouting for more frozen peas.

Jarred came home just in time to save the chicken from impending fire, wash wet paint off of 6 little hands, and change a diaper before our “relaxing” family-time dinner. Stop touching the walls!  With new paint, the marker smudges and dining room chair scrapes on the walls are now a distant memory.

At supper last night we sat around the table enjoying chicken (again) from our slowly dwindling freezer hoard and inhaling paint fumes. As we ate, we all talked about being excited about moving very soon. Our oldest kiddo, smiling, proudly announced, “I am NOT sleeping in this house next Saturday!” Then her very pragmatic self tacked onto her announcement the caveat, “Well, unless we still need to be here. Then I’ll sleep here again.”

So there you have it! Next Saturday, we are not sleeping in this house in MT! Well, unless we still need to be here.

© 2012