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February 27, 2005

Spring Fever

There is less than a foot of snow on the ground at our Minnesota home and if it continues to melt, we should see the first spring flowers by mid-March, only a few weeks away.

Tiny white snowdrops somehow manage to muscle their way through the remaining crust of ice and snow to appear first. There is something so quintessentially British about snowdrops with their white and green heads nodding atop graceful necks that when I see them, I always long to hop on a plane bound for Gatwick. Their petals open when the sun is out and remain closed when it’s cloudy. The clumps underneath the silver maple in front of our house have been expanding since they were planted five years ago. Last fall I planted more between the bergenia edging the window wells at the back of the house and between a row of My Favorite mums next to the pergola. I will be able to see them from the great room windows, an added treat.

When the snowdrops finish blooming, the early crocus begin. Since we remodeled our house and redid the gardens, my crocuses are no longer tucked against the southern side of the house where they would unfurl their sunny purple and yellow faces. Now they are on their own in a raised bed where they still appear early, just not as early as before.

Growing up in North Dakota, I enjoyed my mother’s spring borders which would always be flush with brilliant red species tulips that emerged after the crocus. Those splashes of vivid color went a long way to rekindling hope for warmer things after enduring a seemingly unending series of blizzards and cold.

We also have species tulips, which multiply year after year, but ours are Turkish tulips purchased from White Flower Farm. We planted at least 100, maybe even 200, along the north side of our house, a gently sloping area bisected by a dry streambed. Once they begin blooming, they open yellow, orange or red tapered petals to reveal a star-shaped center. Their bloom time lasts over a month as wave after wave of them dot the little hillside. It may not be Turkey but they seem very happy in Minnesota.

As the season moves on, the gardens are dotted again and again by bulbs – scilla, grape hyacinth, masses of daffodils, tulips, allium and fritallaria. I can’t imagine gardening without them.

Flowering bulbs aren’t the only harbingers of spring. Now when I open the backdoor to let the dogs out early in the morning, the air is full of a cardinal’s swaggering calls. “Hey, baby, hey, baby,” he croons, charming all the local ladies in red.

The cardinals may get the ball rolling but the true indication that spring has arrived is the trill of the first robin back from the south. When I hear that, I immediately stop everything I’m doing. I pivot slowly to scan the neighboring trees and power lines until I spot him.

There’s no more welcome sight than that tomato breast, white bib and dark cap nor a sound more cheerful than the distinctive warble that heralds the end of winter.

Since both robins and snow drops usually appear on or around my birthday, the Ides of March, I consider them my own special birthday presents.

And they are pretty cool presents, indeed. Just what I always wanted.

Posted by maasx003 at 5:29 PM

February 22, 2005

Alien Nation

Lately, our son Graham has been experiencing a language explosion. He is beginning to read words that he sees in billboards, advertisements and new books. His handwriting is improving and he likes to write us “notes,” giving directions such has how to discover who made the mysterious footprints in the snow outside his window.

For Valentine’s Day, he made me a poster with the words “Happy Valentine’s Day, Moo Moo Mom.” He wrote all the words by himself except “Valentine’s” and he got that by asking for each letter individually, followed by a frantic run up and down the stairs to add it to his poster. (What the ‘Moo Moo Mom” mean, I don’t know. He only laughed when I asked him.)

Graham has even started to tell us what certain words mean in Spanish, a sign that something must be clicking in his weekly class at school.

But the biggest surprise has been to learn that he is completely fluent in another foreign language - Alien. That’s right; Graham can conduct entire conversations and sing songs with multiple lyrics and a repetitive chorus, all in Alien. Who knew?

When I try to speak Alien with him, my attempts are rebuffed with a snort and a “No, Mommy, that’s not right.” Apparently the only one who also is fluent in Alien is his buddy Quinn.

At school their teacher has limited their Alien conversations to the playground and other play times. During learning periods or lunchtime, they are directed to use “human talk” so others can understand them. Other than that, she’s cool with their new language and so are we.

Graham can even translate Spanish phrases into Alien. How many people can say their four-year-olds are trilingual? It makes me think of the classic line from the movie “Airplane” when Beaver Cleaver’s mom offers her translating skills with, “Excuse me. I speak jive.”

His translation ability could come in handy some day if and when we are ever invaded by interplanetary forces. Come to think of it, Graham made a correct football prediction last fall by saying that aliens had told him in a dream that the Vikings would score 24 points against the Packers in the play off game. Okay, so he was close but not completely accurate. Maybe part of the alien transmission bounced off our TV dish.

When we completed his kindergarten application forms last month, we were asked what was the primary language spoken at home and which language did he choose to speak. Funny, the language choices covered everything from Inuit to Swahili but no Alien.

Guess I’ll be calling the principal on that one. I’m sure it will be the first of many interesting conversations that we have about our son – in “human talk.”

Posted by maasx003 at 7:20 PM

February 21, 2005

Worst Bridesmaid's Dress Competition

I made the paper last week. Both photo and story. Check it out.

I took part in the opening celebration of a new exhibit at the History Center called "Happily Ever After," about love and marriage in Minnesota. For the day, I wore a replica of an 1890s wedding dress and helped judge an ugly bridesmaid's dress competition. About eight women entered dresses they had worn or friends had worn in weddings from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Some bridesmaid's dresses were truly hideous but were probably considered the height of fashion when they were worn. You can imagine how carefully each bride selected them to make a lasting impact on the audience. I just wonder if the marriages lasted as long as the dresses.

Posted by maasx003 at 12:39 PM

February 15, 2005

Official Release and Welcome!

"Write what you know."

I can't tell you how many times I've heard that in writing classes and workshops through the years. This is what I know: my family, my gardens and my life.

I'm soon approaching The Big Forty - a time to examine what's important in my life. Some women scrapbook or stamp; I garden. And write. And write about gardening.

As a 40th birthday present, my husband presented me with this blog to provide me with another avenue of expression. It will include some pieces of mine that have been previously published - others will be written specifically for this site. Some things I write about may resonate with you; some won't.

When new entries are posted, we'll let you know. Enjoy!

I'd like to thank my husband Brian and Shane Nackerud of the University of Minnesota for being the creative force behind developing this site.

Posted by maasx003 at 11:04 AM