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Looking for great in the Great Outdoors

Confession: Sometimes I think I’d be OK with not going outdoors in the winter.

Give me enough books, movies and, of course, fun treats and I’d channel my inner Maine black bear and snuggle in.

Wake me when it’s spring. Well, alright, mud season.




Once upon a time, when the babes were smaller, outdoors was a fact of daily life no matter the season. We used to take walks religiously. And swing on swings. Or slide in the snow. Together.

Not as much now that they don’t need my help to do all that.

Somehow, to my dismay, I’ve become an indoor mom. A mom that sits on the sidelines. That takes my kids to the lake and watches them swim instead of jumping in the water with them. Eek.

I don’t want to be one of those moms.

Soo, full of resolve this school vacation week, I determined to turn over a new leaf. Here’s what I learned in the process.


Don’t try to change what’s past.

I snuck out that first sunny Monday morning and (with my husband’s help) ripped our snowblower to life. The kids wanted to play in their snowed-in clubhouse? I’d make that happen! Forget lingering over a second cup of coffee. That kind of vacationing was for the old me.

Turns out there was a good reason my husband was hesitant to tackle this task: pushing that hulk of a snow blower uphill to their clubhouse? Tough. And snow blowing 3 feet of aged snow? It’s even harder. Check that. Make that almost impossible.

Maybe Bob the Builder could do it. Or the Paw Patrol. But me? Sometimes, it’s better to let the past stay in the past. And this includes past snowfall.

Never give up.

After that valiant effort fizzled, I pushed my mad snowblowing skillz around to the snowmobile, also buried in a pile of slightly fresher powder we’d been handed the week before.

The big bonus here: level ground.

I wrestled and wrangled and thought evil thoughts about winter.

Wait. No. Outdoor moms didn’t do that.

They gloried in the crisp air and layers upon layers of clothing. Outdoor moms ran snowblowers and zoomed through school vacation with their kids on snowmobiles. An outdoor mom could make this happen.

As the snow blower wheels spun, a pair of half-size Muck boots appeared in my periphery. And then a second-grade grin. I turned further and saw my husband collecting video evidence for fam in SoCal.

That was all the fuel I needed.

Powered a burst by irritation and a kid-size toothy grin, the snow blower and I made magic happen.

My new motto: the undoable happens when you refuse to give up.


It’s not about all about me.

My solo victory lap on the sled was sweet (but cold on the face) when I chugged around the lake. This is what happens when you don’t give up. This is what happens when you work hard. I’d shown them that, I thought.

But all that fabulousness took a sour turn when I headed back into the yard — the pristine yard, unbroken by any trails, completely covered by more than two feet of powdery fluff.

I panicked.

Should I park the sled in the same snowy hole we’d just dug it out of? What spot was any better? Thinking on my feet had never my strong point.

The short version of this story is: the sled ended up stuck. Again.

My husband, ever the optimist, took one look and declared it wasn’t coming out til spring. The kids were more pragmatic: “Dad got it stuck last year. You got it stuck this year.”

Well, Brad was wrong.

We got un-stuck before spring. But it took BOTH of us. We worked off and on all day long. It also took pretty much every ounce of good will we had left.

The good news?

The kids got their sled ride. Brad took them. I’ve sworn off all snowmobile driving.

The kids also got to their clubhouse. While we were digging, (And digging. And pulling.) they dug out their snowshoes and clomped to the clubhouse. I don’t when they’ve had so much fun.

I’m willing to concede.

The outdoors may have won this round.

But I’m not giving in yet.

I may give up on being a big show off, though. That didn’t exactly work out.

I may give up on creating huge, Herculean magic for my kids.

(Or maybe not. That’s a mom’s prerogative.)

I may try to focus more on just ordinary, everyday magic for my family instead.


Outdoors, 1. Me, 0.

Don’t worry, Outdoors. You haven’t heard the last from us.

When was the last time you tried to make a big change?


Happy Valentine’s hangover

What’s Valentine’s Day supposed to be? Are there rules about these things?

I think before I was married or even dating very much I had a fuzzy idea — ideas that had something to do with eating out, cheesecake for dessert and probably flowers.

Now, like most moms, my idea of romance is at least one night of not having to check the toilet seat for pee before I sit down or putting supper on the table without having to find a home for two loads of laundry, an entire Lego city and the remnants of an inspirational craft project.

When Valentine’s dawned this year

It shouldn’t have been a surprise then when our Valentine’s started a beep.

(I wish I could say a bang. It would add so much more climax to the story, but I guess that’s a little cliche.)

But it’s actually a series of beeps and flashing lights. The plow truck, which would qualify as road-size in less snow-ready states, was stuck our driveway. At 4:30 a.m.

(Can we just pause to say all snow plow drivers deserve medals?)

An hour later, two feet of snow and the massive snow plow were both moved from our driveway. All the concern our dog expressed that entire hour probably helped.

Valentine’s Day had officially begun.

Why let the day get ahead of you? Valentine’s is a perfect day to start early. Especially when you get a card and chocolate first thing. And when your husband forgives you for forgetting his card. Yikes.

I packed Valentine treats for the posse and then crawl towards the brewing coffee. The rest of the morning is kisses and hugs and lunch boxes and snowsuits and boots and finding matching mittens.

After the 2-hour school delay, everyone is dropped off and the rest of the day is ordinary and quiet. Our night routine at is the same — ordinary.

No shocking endings here. This Valentine’s didn’t include chocolates, gourmet food or candle light. (Well, OK, we did manage to sneak a few chocolates.)

But it did have lots of love and happy.

On Valentine’s Day, I heard her tell me a zillion times she loved the fancy makeup she got. I watched him play with that truck (with real doors!) all afternoon long. We had candy before breakfast. And the excitement when they hauled their school Valentine’s home? Palpable. We shared snuggles under the blanket with a story about a mouse named Ragweed. And after bedtime? We rented a movie he’d been wanting to watch and stayed up late watching it.

Everyday life isn’t full of grand gestures. It’s soggy mittens and getting stuck in snow drifts sometimes. It’s a Valentine box stuffed full of love and bear hugs first thing in the morning. It’s snuggling close and spinning stories.

Grand gestures get all the press and they’re fun to read about in books, but maybe Valentine’s is also a day to celebrate everyday love. The love that holds your hand in the car. The love lets you have chocolate milk sometimes instead of white milk. The love that crawls out of a warm bed to give hugs and scare away bad guys in the night. The love that tells you you’re pretty even when you have pillow hair.

Feeling ordinary? That’s OK. Because if you look close, sandwiched in between all the ordinary craziness love is there, too.