Spring is teasing us this year. We have had several days of beautiful weather, but we have also had a lot of showers and gray skies, cooler than I would like it to be. Not that this is unusual for Long Island, but because we had such an extreme winter, I think spring is even more anticipated than it usually is. Today is a great example. The weather forecast is for a 60% chance of rain, with a high of 57*. It is already warmer than that (our thermometer says 58 or so, but tends to be off as much as 5*; I have been meaning to buy another but the ones at Target are all ugly and digital and I would prefer an old-fashioned one that looks nice) and the skies have ranged from bright blue skies to a forbidding gray. While I am happy it isn't actually raining, I dislike days like this because you can't make plans. It's supposed to rain, but it isn't. But you worry that by the time you decide to do something outside, it will, so you don't do anything, and then if it doesn't rain you wish you'd just gone ahead.
The kids are playing in the yard, simply happy that they are out without coats (though they are wearing sleeves and pants) and I am taking advantage of the quiet. I'd like to get out later and sort out the garage, which becomes a horrible tangle of junk over the winter season, when nobody wants to spend any time neatening it up. I thought I would do a list of my favorite things about spring:
* flowers. This one is a given for everybody. From the crocuses pushing up no matter how cold it is, to the daffodils and forsythia, there is nothing better than seeing flowers emerge like magic after a long winter.
* grass and trees. Closely related to flowers, but worth their own list item. Seeing the lawns change from brown and dull to bright green, dotted with buttercups or even the dreaded dandelion is something we look forward to--and seeing the buds make the trees lime green, and then eventually uncurling into leaves, is so wonderful and welcome after the bare winter trees.
* our magnolia and dogwood trees. Yes, they are flowers and trees at once, so they sort of fall into the above two categories. But our gorgeous pink magnolia in front of the house was one of the things that I first loved about this property, and I look forward to the few weeks every year when those lovely, huge pink flowers are open. It makes everything seem possible. Even if the kids made the unsavory discovery that the flowers smell like bacon....who ever would have thought such a gorgeous flower would have such an odd smell for a flower? As for the dogwood trees, we have 3 of those, all white. I grew up with a pink dogwood in the front yard, so dogwood blooms make me think of being a child and all the fun I had playing in and around that tree. The fact that it was pink and our magnolia is pink is probably one of the reasons I fell for this house!
* opening the windows. People who live in a climate with four distinct seasons have a huge appreciation for the first day the windows can be opened comfortably. And for the first night we can sleep with them open as well. There's nothing like smelling the air and feeling the breeze, airing out the winter's worth of heated air. My cats jostle for position in their favorite windows (never mind that of course we have lots more than 3 windows--they want the one they want and the others can jump in a lake!) and the kids just seem to happy to feel the air; it's different than going outside. And even closing them once the house has cooled off too much is a pleasure--the fresh air can still be smelled and felt, somehow.
* outside play time. What mom can't relate to this one? After a winter of being mostly penned in, it is simply wonderful for the kids to go outside. Ben plays outside almost every day, but when it's cold he of course doesn't stay out long enough to shake all his boy-energy out. And Julia and Emma (especially Emma) don't enjoy playing in the cold, so if the weather is bad they might not play outside for 2 or 3 days at a stretch. Which is simply too long!
* schoolwork on the patio. Here's one of those moments when the kids realize how lucky they are to homeschool. Who can't remember being at a desk on a gorgeous spring day, gazing out the window and wishing it was 3 o'clock? Well, my kids can take their things to the back patio table and enjoy the day while they get their work done. Brains seem to function better, too.
* playing hooky. Related to above--sometimes a spring day is just too nice to do any schoolwork at all. We have the whole week, after all, we can just work extra hard another day, or add one or two things to every day if we don't feel like working hard! Sometimes going to the park, the beach, or somewhere for a hike is way more important than school!
* first meal on the patio. And it doesn't have to be cooked outside. Sometimes we decide to bring our breakfast or lunch outside to eat. Or if it's a really warm day and still warm at dinnertime, we set the outside table. This also means we need cushions for the chairs--our chairs are wrought iron so they stay cold unless it's summer weather, but we enjoy being able to eat any meal al fresco. And there are usually fewer bugs than in the summer, too.
* Putting away the flannel sheets. I love flannel sheets, and I love fires in the fireplace. But washing those sheets and sweeping out the ashes for the last time are great feelings. Packing them away in the attic and knowing we won't sleep on them again till October or even November is just great.
* Changing the winter clothes over. So actually, I hate this job! And I am the one who does it for the entire family except Matt. (Though Rachel is handling her own clothes now, I just have to get them out of the attic and then sort through the ones she won't wear again to decide if I should keep them for her sisters or if I'm sick of them and want to give them away...and then pack them back into the attic!) But I will say that when it's done, we once again have clean, organized drawers and closets, and seeing all those summery clothes makes me happy.
* General clean-up projects. Another one that I don't actually enjoy, but that I love the results of. Straightening up the garage, raking up winter debris in the garden and under shrubs, planting flowers, touching up paint, cleaning up the patios and taking out the hammock swing...spruces things up and makes us enjoy outside more.
* Going to the playground. After a winter of not pushing kids in swings, not listening to "watch me, Mama!" come out of someone's mouth forty times an hour, and not packing snacks and drinks and sunscreen and sand toys before we leave--I get to missing the playground. So the first few times we go are like magic. After that, I bring a book if we aren't going with friends I can talk to.
* Photos. In the winter, it gets tiresome taking photos. Who wants another picture of kids in the house, no matter how cute they are? When the weather gets nice, there are infinite possibilities for photography.
* Ice pops. Sounds silly, but we have fun making popsicles with different juices, fruit and yogurts. They are a great snack when the kids are running around for hours.
* Freshly mown grass. Who doesn't love that smell?
* The beach. Living as close to the beach as we do, we can go there in the spring, even when it's too cold to swim. There are nice playgrounds on our beaches, the kids love the sand and the shells, and they wade, too. If I had to drive a distance to the beach I'd never go unless we could spend the entire day.
* Birds and animals. After a winter of boring wrens and sparrows, with some woodpeckers, jays and cardinals sprinkled in for color, it's nice to hear the birds singing and see a greater variety at the feeders. This year we were treated to a squirrel building his nest in the tree right outside the dining room window--we got to see him strip bark from branches and find bits of fluff and leaves to carry back to his den. I just wish we didn't see so many animals hit in the road--deer, raccoons, possum, woodchucks, rabbits and even foxes--and that our lovely outdoor cat, Lila, would stop catching mice, voles and birds for us--all I can think of is poor motherless babies waiting in a nest for them to come back.
It appears I could go on in this vein for some time, but I am going to sign off now. Happy spring!