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.

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When Life Hands You a Puffball…‏

Written October 7, 2013.

If I look out in the sheep pasture and see something strange on the ground, generally speaking, “maybe we could eat that” isn’t the first thought that comes to mind.

However, there are exceptions to every rule. Last Saturday happened to be one of those exceptions.

Freckles the sheep helps show off the puff ball discovery in the pasture.  (When did sheep and puff balls enter my life?!)

Freckles the sheep helps show off the puff ball discovery in the pasture. (When did sheep and puff balls enter my life?!)

We originally set out for the Great Apple Harvest of 2013. With four long-established apples trees on the back corner of our land, I had happy visions of bags full of apples. I would bake them into all sorts of things that would fill our house with the aroma of fall and make everyone swoon with homey contentment.

As it turned out, the apple harvest was pretty much just that: AN apple. Okay, realistically we maybe found 30. And, they certainly were, um, “organic.” Of the 30 apples, Asian beetles and bees inhabited at least half. I could almost hear the bugs drooling in sheer ecstasy, “Oh…I’m living in a house made of food…nom nom nom….”

A few weeks ago, my husband mentioned it was time to pick the apples. At that point, I really was in denial about fall setting in, and I told him I just wasn’t ready for apple picking. Funny thing, apple picking isn’t really like making a dentist appointment, where you pick the time that works for you, and maybe put it off for a month if things just don’t fit in the schedule.

By the time we moseyed back to pick our apples, we found most of them on the ground, already turning into compost. I had visions of apple sauce, apple butter, apple pies… Compost is all well and good, but nobody comes into a house and says “ooh, is that compost you’re making ?” and if they do, it’s probably not a compliment.

After strike one on the wimpy apple harvest, I thought “Hey, we’ll just add the last of the rhubarb, and make apple rhubarb pie!”

A few weeks ago, we discovered that the rhubarb rejuvenated itself and we had a whole new crop of crisp stalks ready for the picking. When I saw it that day, I just wasn’t ready to tackle a pile of rhubarb, and figured I’d come back another day. (Are you noticing a theme?)

And…strike two, rhubarb. Thank you to the goats and/or sheep who escaped and munched off my last good batch of rhubarb for the season. All we found were a few trampled stalks and some telling raisin-like droppings. Why, goats and sheep, why?

They didn’t even add brown sugar or oatmeal. It couldn’t have tasted good. It’s also apparently slightly toxic for them, according to the internet. I never noticed any animals with ill effects, so they must have all eaten just a little, sharing nicely. Polite sheep and goats. That’s the silver lining.

The other silver lining? Tomatoes! With no killing frost, our tomato plants are troupers. They are out there in the weed patch garden, just making tomatoes like crazy. My husband and a collection of kids picked off the last of the tomato bounty. It is a beautiful sight to behold.

Tomatoes, glorious tomatoes!  Doesn't it look so farm-y with the barn in the background?

Tomatoes, glorious tomatoes! To me it looks like a little slice of country heaven with the barn in the background…

Our best harvest of all, though, happened to be the one thing we had no plans of finding. A day or two ago, looking out across the yard, I thought an ice cream pail must have blown into the sheep’s pasture. On closer inspection, I discovered a volleyball-sized mushroom that I swear just showed up overnight. A puffball!

Way back in the recesses of my mind is a memory of one time coming home from the Fall Festival at St. Aloysius with a giant puffball mushroom that my mom then fried and we ate. It was such an oddity that it stuck in my head.

Heading online once again, I checked various websites to find out about our amazing pasture fungal growth. Turns out, if the inside is creamy white and uniformly smooth with no gills, it is indeed edible.

Oh yes, we are in puffball heaven. We hunted down five puffballs total. That makes four more puffballs than we could ever really consume in a reasonable amount of time.

The Great Puff Ball Harvest of 2013.  Holy puff balls!

The Great Puff Ball Harvest of 2013. Holy puff balls!

And that’s kind of how it is in life. Sometimes, you think it’s apples that you’re going to find, but it’s really puffballs. And puffballs aren’t apples, but they are pretty amazing.

Puffball pie, anyone? Just kidding. We did eat them sauteed with onions in plenty of butter. On top of our Saturday night pot roast they tasted utterly delicious. (That’s just how Martha Stewart would say it.)

And for dessert, we did manage to whip up a fabulous apple rhubarb crumb pie with the last pickings of the season.

Pot roast with wild mushroom and apple rhubarb crumb pie. Not bad for some stuff we found laying in the yard.

A side note:
Completely unrelated to anything about puffballs, on Sunday all of my sisters and I attended Les Miserables at Rochester Civic Theater. Ordinarily, sisters getting together isn’t that big of a deal, but there are six of us, so it does become a big deal. By our best count, it’s been 18 years since we last did anything together with just the six of us sisters together. That makes this newest photo of the six of us all the more special.

The six sisters together: Karen, Deb, Mel, Kathy, Vicki and Sues.  For the record, I also have seven brothers. : )

The six sisters together: Karen, Deb, Mel, Kathy, Vicki and Sues. For the record, I also have seven brothers. : )