More Signs of Springy-ish-ness!

Just a few days ago we had subzero weather here. But yesterday it was in the 30s! A Saturday! With sunshine! And no wind!

Y’all may not know this, but some Minnesotans actually break out their shorts and t-shirts in this sort of weather. For us, going coat-less, hat-less, and mitten-less is just as exciting, as you can see.

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When we drove home from church today, it was 40 degrees. The little boys down the street were outside riding their scooters, and the snow in the birdbath had melted into water.

Yep, these are indeed more signs of springy-ish-ness. Yay!

Turkeys, Snirt and Springy-ish-ness

This week a certain lovely and talented person I know and love in Oregon has been sharing beautifully colorful photos of Lenten roses in bloom, budding camellias and other lush greenery currently abounding in her Secret Garden-like backyard.

I might have been a little jealous when I saw the first ones. In fact, two flower-loving small people in my family (who sometimes peer over my shoulder while my laptop is open) frowned jealously, too.

Spring doesn’t officially begin for another two weeks. But here in the Can-You-Believe-the-Weather-Channel-Says-Our-Winters-Are-Officially-Colder-than-Anchorage-Alaska? city of Minneapolis, we are ever so watchful and hopeful for spring.

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You see, we’ve had more than 50 days of subzero weather and more than 60 inches of snow over the last 90 days. That translates into the worst winter in the history of ever. Or 146 years, if you prefer numbers. To say we are more watchful for spring than ever before — well, that might be an understatement.

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But I am happy to report that springy-ish things are happening here! Seriously, at least nine springy-ish things are underway up here in the coldest major city in the United States.

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Springy-ish Sign #1: The ice house is in my driveway. More than a week ago, state law forced the ice houses to leave the lake. And so what if the ice on the lake is still four feet thick? February is officially over.

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Springy-ish Sign #2: The mailbox is becoming more accessible. It has been weeks since the post office threatened to stop delivering our mail because of the snow-plow-induced glaciers at the end of our driveway. And now my 8-year-old can reach the mailbox again.

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Springy-ish Sign #3: A photography trip to the Arboretum is not entirely unreasonable. Yesterday it warmed up to a breezy but balmy 20 degrees (never mind the wind chill), so the girls and I threw on our snow boots (again) and ventured out to the Arboretum for a peek at the gardens. It is helpful to have some early March photos as a first reference point in the miracle of spring.

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Springy-ish Sign #4: Piles of snirt (aka “dirty snow”) prove there hasn’t been much fresh snow lately. And yes, we’ll just ignore those people who loudly crow, “But March is often our snowiest month!”

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Springy-ish Sign #5: Not one of the benches at the Arboretum was vacant yesterday. Yes, it was strangely quiet at the Arb, just us and the turkeys, to tell you the truth.

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But even so we couldn’t find a single bench to sit on.

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Can you even find the bench beneath this magnolia tree?

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Springy-ish Sign #6: The tips of the magnolia branches show some promising fuzziness. Seriously, this is one of our favorite magnolia trees. I will return to it for more pictures when it blooms.

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Springy-ish Sign #7: Puddles! Near the magnolia, we found a few puddles of melted snow. Real-live, honest-to-goodness liquid water in the great outdoors! So what if we haven’t heard raindrops since last October? Puddles are puddles.

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Springy-ish Sign #8: “Look, Mommy! I found something GREEN!” It’s buried so far beneath the snow we can’t even begin to identify it. But yep, whatever it is, it’s green, sure enough.

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Springy-ish Sign #9. My friend says she saw a robin earlier this week. Rumor is some robins winter in Minnesota. (Gasp!) But Ruth is a robin expert, and she says the robin she saw was most certainly not one of those robins, which are known to look frumpy and crabby and have legs and beaks darkened from frost bite.

“The robin I saw this afternoon was from down south. She had tan legs and a tan beak, and she was wearing flip flops,” Ruth reports. “There was a spring in her step and a sparkle in her eyes. She also chirped a little slowly and had a southern drawl: ‘Chyyuurp, Chyyuurp, y’all.'”

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And so there you have it, folks. It’s officially springy-ish in Minnesota!

When the Snow Seems Steadfast

The giant snowflakes started falling around lunchtime. They came down slow at first, but then fell heavy and steady. I sent my 11-year-old out to rescue the wooden parts in the remnant of her dilapidated, mostly buried snowman.

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You know it’s deep when your snowman gets swallowed up by the snow.

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Hovering over a bowl of macaroni noodles, my 8-year-old teased about eating lunch on the deck but then worried about snow tornados. “Snow-nados,” she called them. “Could there be such a thing really?” she asked, troubled by her own imagination.

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Outside, the snow kept flying and flying, and inside I admired my Valentine’s Day tulips and marveled that somewhere beyond this wintery, white, frozen world was a place warm enough to grow flowers.

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The snow looked so heavy as it fell from the sky, and yet it looked so light and delicate as it laced the tree branches.

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As the snowy afternoon wore on, the white thickly coated the branches of my favorite maple tree, visibility grew more limited, and the wind picked up.

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Snowflakes mixed with sleet hit the warm window and slid downward in strange crowds.

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The snow kept falling, piling up deeper and deeper. I shoveled four inches off the driveway while dinner cooked in the oven. I came inside with my coat completely soaked by the snow. Less than an hour later, the driveway needed cleared again. After dinner, my husband and our oldest daughter went out to shovel more and fix the belt on the snow blower. The belt was shredded. No snow blower for this storm. So on and on they shoveled.

I read princess stories to our youngest, watched over the banana bread in the oven and fixed hot cocoa for the shoveling crew. After we tucked the girls into bed, my husband and I headed outside again to shovel for another hour. We shoved and lifted, heaved and threw snow high above our heads. The snow piles along the driveway grew massive — higher and deeper than I ever remember such piles growing in past winters. On and on we shoveled until we found part of the driveway and part of the mailbox.

Now it’s dark. I just finished washing dishes, and as I type the howling wind is blowing small chunks of ice onto the windows. It sounds like bits of glass breaking, and the lights keep flickering and dimming.

My 11-year-old, she is sleeping with her flashlight nearby — just in case. I lit a candle in the kitchen, a big candle with three wicks — just in case. And my mind, oh it wants to worry.

Tomorrow’s high is only 16. What if the power goes off. Tomorrow’s low is -2. What if the water pipes freeze when the power goes off? What if the power outage makes the smoke detectors go off again? What if…

If left to my own imagination, surely I’ll be the next one worrying about those mythical snow tornadoes.

So I fight the wild imagination, the what-ifs, the fear. It fight it with words.

Our dear friend Paul, his words rescue me from myself. He tells me in Romans 8:

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Ah, yes. It’s that steadfast love I’ve been writing about. The snow, it can threaten. It can pile up so high and so deep that most of the driveway disappears, along with all but the door of the mailbox. It can even swallow up the snowman entirely. It can fall and fall and threaten to never cease. But neither the snow nor the wind nor anything else in all creation can separate me from the steadfast love of the LORD.

Soon enough the snow will cease, but His love never will. And in the morning, His mercies will be new again. So to bed I go, resting in the shelter of His great faithfulness.

You Might Be a Minnesotan

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If you’ve ever been excited that it is finally warm enough to make a snowman, you might be a Minnesotan.

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If you’ve ever been envious of Siberia’s forecast in January, you might be a Minnesotan. (Our “high” a few weeks ago was -5 degrees while it was 33 above in Chelyabinsk, Siberia.)

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If your 4-year-old has ever lamented that it is too “deep” to play outside, you might be a Minnesotan.

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If you’ve ever stepped outside in 6-degree weather and said somewhat casually, “Why yes, I think it does feel warmer,” you might be a Minnesotan.

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If you’ve ever considered 28 degrees something akin to room temperature, you might be a Minnesotan.

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If you’ve ever had a conversation about the nuances of thermal underwear in an elevator, you might be a Minnesotan.

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If you’ve ever devoted an entire blog post to quips about snowy winter weather, you might be a Minnesotan.

Happy February!

A Snowcabulary Lesson

NOTE: We are feeling a little snow-deprived here in Minnesota, which is odd for January. So, to keep things in perspective, I’m reposting this fun blog post from a few years ago when we were buried in much snow.

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Drawing on my personal snow experience that has accumulated over 15 Minnesota winters, I’ve compiled this brief snowcabulary list of seven snow-related words — complete with pictures of course!

1. dirty snow: (noun) older snow that has turned any color other than white — usually gray, brown or yellow

Dirty snow is not pleasant to behold, and it often causes Minnesotans to wish for some bright new snow, just to freshen things up again.

2. black snow: (noun) snow that has been blackened by roadway contaminants; usually found along roadsides

We love snow plows, but they do tend to create heaps of black snow along the highways, not to mention the enormous mountains of black snow they pile up in parking lots.

3. snow booger: (noun) a large clump of black snow that collects on the bottom of your vehicle as you drive

Hanging down and frozen to the underside of vehicles, snow boogers seem to defy gravity. Heartily kicking snow boogers off your vehicle helps vent any dirty, frustrated feelings you may have collected toward winter weather.

4. clean driveway: (noun) a driveway with at least 40% visible concrete

When it’s mid February, and you haven’t seen the grass since early November, and you’ve worn your snow shovel and snow blower to nubs, you lower your standards. You just accept those especially stubborn sheets of icy, snowy stuff that clutter up an otherwise “clear” driveway. You just pray they’ll melt on their own sometime in May.

5. death trap: (noun) an area where thick, relentlessly stubborn sheets of ice gang up with sharp, pointy icicles overhead and ruthlessly threaten to send innocent bystanders to the emergency room

The area in front of our third garage stall is a death trap. Areas like this are the primary reason you can still find Christmas lights up in late March. Nobody wants to climb a ladder here!

6. light-cicles: (noun) Christmas lights that have been vandalized by monstrous icicles

Light-cicles are the secondary reason you can still find Christmas lights up in late March. The intertwining mess begs for a meltdown.

7. snow-verwhelming: (adjective) laden with snow; characteristic of something that has been drastically transformed by accumulated snow 

This snow-verwhelming bush is an excellent tool for elevating young climbers. Never mind what I said about Christmas lights in March; I think my 8-year-old can probably reach to pull them off the house.

And while she’s out there, I think I’ll have her dust the tree tops — just for good measure.

Enjoy your snow-verwhelming weather down south, and don’t drive anywhere!

Through the Deep Snow

Come along, walk a few steps in my favorite boots.

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The snow is deep.

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And the lilacs sleep.

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The evergreen, burdened with white, whispers “All is calm; all is bright.”

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And she stirs…

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And when the snow won’t snowball, she just throws snow.

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Whoosh!

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Never trust anyone in a ski mask, especially if it’s pink.

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Whiter than Snow

Reposting from the deep down in the archives… Happy Good Friday and Happy Easter!

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Except for a few small patches, nearly all of the snow that had been covering our lawn since Dec. 1, 2007, melted earlier this week. We all rejoiced to be finally rid of that old snow; it had turned ugly and gray over the last three months.

On Wednesday Linnea was able to ride her bicycle and play outside all afternoon. Laurel blew bubbles and scooted around on her trike. Neighbors we hadn’t seen in months came up the street to chat. The hope of spring that had sustained us through this long, bitter winter was finally becoming a reality!

But today it’s a different story. It’s Good Friday and the first full day of spring according to the calendar. But just like Jesus’ disciples felt on Good Friday, we’re feeling confused and discouraged. It’s snowing. Actually, it’s blizzarding. We must have nearly six inches of fluffy white stuff out there right now, and it’s still piling up! We’ve lost a little hope.

So what does snow have to do with Good Friday? After David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan came to him and encouraged him to repent of his sins. David wrote Psalm 51, and in verse 7 he says to God, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”

Likewise, Isaiah 1:18 says “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”

All week I’ve been reminding Linnea and Laurel that Easter isn’t about brightly colored eggs or tasty chocolate bunnies. It’s about Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. It’s about Jesus paying the blood sacrifice so that we, like David, can be made whiter than snow.

So even in the midst of a March blizzard, we still have hope. We have hope that spring will arrive and the rain will wash away our snow. The grass will reappear and turn green. The birds will return. The trees will bud and the flowers will bloom.

Though our hope for spring may come and go, our hope in Jesus will continue. He cleanses us and gives us a fresh new beginning. He will not disappoint us. He is risen indeed!

Marching Boldly into Spring

The calendar says spring arrives tomorrow.

Typically, we Minnesotans find ourselves still under a blanket of snow on March 20 and searching eagerly for any small hint of spring. Usually, the calendar and maybe a few robins are the only hints.

Here are the first robins we saw last spring.

It’s not easy when March and half of April comes and goes while the snow does not.

But this March is exceptional. It’s marching boldly into spring.

On March 1, while wandering about in the freshly fallen snow, we saw fuzzy buds on the trees.

On March 10, the first robin flew in and rested at the bird bath.

By March 12, the snow was nearly gone, and it was warm enough to play outside for hours without a jacket.

On March 16, the robin was getting pretty cozy at the bird bath, and my children were digging through bins in a feverish search for shorts and t-shirts. Last week was quite possibly the best spring break weather ever recorded in this otherwise-usually-frozen state.

Yesterday, my husband actually turned on the air conditioner — for a few hours — because it was nearly 80 inside and outside.

This week the tulips have begun poking through the dirt, the lilac bush has started budding, and even the grass has commenced to look faintly green. And we’ve spied many songbirds besides the robins. We’ve seen cardinals, blue jays, and goldfinches.

After ballet class today, a brief rain shower came our way. The girls — ever so jubilant — quickly grabbed their gear and headed out to test the conditions under their new umbrellas.

But the rain ended ever-so abruptly.

Yet the wind continued ever-so fiercely.

Later this evening we had more rain along with a little thunderstorm — which was little but still just big enough to make the little sister nervous at bedtime.

So the girls are camped out together in sleeping bags, keeping each other safe from the thunder and whatever marches in overnight.

After a good rest, perhaps they’ll have more opportunities for umbrella testing tomorrow.

Feb. 21 is an Official Snow Day

One of the downsides of homeschooling, from a parent’s perspective, is having to make so many decisions. Which math curriculum? What spelling book? Do we skip learning cursive handwriting? How much time should we focus on this period of history? Should we continue with this language program or switch to another method? The list is endless.

Likewise, one of the best parts of homeschooling is getting to make decisions about your daily schedule. That’s so true today — we decided to declare Feb. 21 an official Snow Day! When there’s 3 inches of fresh snow and conditions are finally perfect for sledding and snowman-building, fractions and spelling words can wait until tomorrow!

Happy Snow Day!