Saturday, May 3, 2008

Signs of Spring

The weather is a favorite subject for conversation, small talk, and complaints in Minnesota. I do not like to complain about the weather, ever, but I do miss the feeling of warm sunshine on my face. The temperatures tell me spring has not yet reached us, but finally the trees and plants are showing me that warmer days are not far away. Early this morning, when I let Muffy outside for her 4 a.m. potty break, heavy snowflakes were racing the raindrops to the ground. Today the boys wore mittens when they rode their bikes. In the past week, snowflakes have taken us by surprise three times. We have still enjoyed the reticent spirit of spring, even if we didn't experience the joy of warm spring weather. Among our favorite times spent outdoors this spring were field trips to state parks, a visit to a sheep farm, trips to the park, kite-flying afternoons, and half-hour, leisurely conversations with the neigbhors.

Below, Max and Mitchell flew our colorful, sturdy, light-up-at-night kite one breezy Saturday afternoon, after my parents came for a fun visit on April 13. Mom, Dad, Max, Mitchell, and I went car seat shopping at Babies 'R Us since Mitchell has almost reached the forty-pound threshold on his convertible car seat. Before they returned to New Ulm, we had ice cream at Culver's restaurant.

The twists and swoops of the kite made Minnie nervous, but she still managed to relax nearby in the brown grass with Muffy.
The next day, Monday, April 14, we took a break from school in the afternoon to enjoy the sunshine, the basketball hoop, and the deck. We are looking forward to eating lunches and reading stacks of books on the deck in the coming weeks.

Later that day, Troy arrived home early enough to grill two pork tenderloins, Ambassador wieners, and chicken breasts. Despite a long winter, perhaps 150 days without using the grill, he hadn't lost his technique. I was happy to have three days' worth of dinner in the fridge! Max and Mitchell kept Troy company for a little while, then managed to find mischief in the backyard: Mitchell harrassed Minnie and Max tried to sneak various items into the hot coals as part of a never-ending science experiment.

Spring has brought the return of more wildlife to our backyard and our deck. We enjoy watching and feeding the birds, rabbits, and squirrels. One afternoon we caught a glimpse of a wild turkey and we have seen deer footprints in the muddy soil. The bunnies like to hang out in the dirt where we set up our swimming pool in the summer time. The squirrels climb onto the deck and eat critter food, peanut butter bread, and dried food right outside the sliding door. There are three squirrels who visit almost daily to eat the treats we leave for them on the deck, and they are readily identifiable by their size, color, and injuries. Mitchell has nicknamed two of them Donut and Cookie; Max calls one of them Big Red. The birds enjoy the trees, bird houses, and bird feeders scattered throughout the yard. Max and I keep our cameras handy just to capture that perfect snapshot. Here are some of our favorite animal pictures taken during the month of April ...

On Sunday, April 20, the four of us constructed a raised bed for a garden this summer. We used leftover lumber from our deck and leftover dirt from our sidewalk construction. I have a long wish list of vegetables and herbs I would like to plant, so I will either need to be more selective or build more raised beds, with the assistance of my good helpers. Max was a big help with the drill and hammer.

Mitchell was a big help as a babysitter for Minnie, even though she probably didn't want Mitchell to take on that role. She may not be the most obidient, intelligent dog, but she makes up for that by being unbelievably tolerant and loving. She gives real meaning to the terms "loyalty" and "unconditional love."

"Minnie, I caught you!"

Mitchell inspired us with his chalk creations. Look at his sweet little hands!
The yellow flowers on this mystery bush are getting ready to bloom; in fact, they opened bright and wide the following day. On Monday, April 21, I got up early to get ready for a visit from Elleana and Maverick. I was so tired but so grateful to witness this beautiful sunrise at 5 a.m.

Those cheerful yellow flowers ...
... and now the peonies have sprouted out of the ground. I can't wait for their heavy pink flowers! The first flower I ever received from a boy was a big, beautiful peony.

We were so excited to play outside with our friends William, Wes, and their mom Heidi. This summer our playdates with them will be across town at their new house instead of across the street. Last summer, the four boys played together almost every day, running races and playing in the sandbox. We two moms talking about parenting, taught endless lessons in sharing, and sipped strong iced teas on those unforgettable afternoons. Below, Max, William, Wes, and Mitchell hide treasures in the sandbox in Wes' and William's new backyard.

Three-and-a-half year-old William swings way up high in the hopes of touching the sky!

Later that night, we were treated to early evening chats with two of our neighbor families. We have the best neighbors in the world, including Dan and Heidi, who are no longer official neighbors; Jennifer and Jeff, who live nearby in the cul-de-sac and are parents to four wonderful kids, including Sam, The Best Babysitter Ever; and Dan and Lynn, who live up the street. Jackie, Dave and Mary, and Mike and Wanda and their families live within eyesight of our house and we are blessed to have them as next-door neighbors, whether I need to "borrow" a cup of sugar or a helping hand. I don't know what I would do without the gift of friendship I have received from all of these wonderful families.

Below, neighbor Grace and her friend were making an ice cream commercial for their Spanish class, and Max and Mitchell were happy to be the stars along with Victoria, who is almost a kindergarten graduate. Max and Mitchell got to eat the "helado" after filming was completed; Victoria had to go inside and get ready for bed. Grace said Victoria could have her ice cream the next day. On the short walk home, we stopped to visit with neighbor Mary and give some lovin' to sweet, stubborn Carly, who simply lays down on the grass during her walk if she gets tired or doesn't want to go home.
Later that week, we were getting ready to leave for our almost-weekly visit to the pool to swim with other homeschool friends. Rain was falling hard, and Max saw the largest worm he had ever seen in his life. He wanted to capture it, but he didn't want to catch it. He was hoping the worm would simply crawl into the bucket.

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